The NFL Draft is coming to Grant Park, April 30 to May 2, in Mayor Rahm Emanuel and company's latest initiative to boost tourism in Chicago. The city's front lawn is going to become a mecca for football fans across the country.
In order to pull off the event, the league is teaming up with C3 Presents, which runs Lollapalooza.
"Coming to Chicago allowed us to reimagine what the draft could be," said NFL Senior Vice President of Events Peter O'Reilly. "It allows so many more fans to experience the draft."
O'Reilly did not give an estimate for how many people he expected to show up during the course of the weekend, but provided that he hopes the turnout will "surpass our wildest dreams."
The NFL's new vision of the draft is drastically different from any of its previous iterations. It basically breaks down into a three-ring circus consisting of the Auditorium Theatre, "Selection Square" and "Draft Town." Here's what you can expect at each.
The Joffrey Ballet rearranged its schedule to accommodate the draft. Both ESPN and the NFL Network will have sets in the theater. There will be two giant LED monitors in the venue. The main stage will boast a two-tiered design that is radically different from the setup that the league has used in previous years at Radio City Music Hall.
The NFL and Auditorium Theater hosted a raffle for a chance to score seats inside, so only a small number of lucky fans are going to be able to view the draft from the comfort of the theater.
The NFL is building a massive arch structure standing at about 80 feet tall on Congress Plaza across the street from the theater. It will be dubbed "Selection Square" and will be where all of the draft operations take place. Each team will have a table set up to relay picks, and a whole mess of screens and lights will make it clear to even the dullest attendees which team is on the clock.
Like the theater, access to Selection Square will be limited to raffle winners.
Draft Town will be a free and massive spectacle the size of "15 football fields." There will be a "Team House" for each of the league's clubs. Fans will be able to take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and other memorabilia of the sort. Flag football games will take place across the park. Fans will be able race some of their favorite players in a 40-yard dash by way of a massive interactive LED screen. A wind tunnel skydive simulator dubbed the "Sweetness Simulator" will float fans into the air. Fans over 21 will be able to drink at the "Draft Tavern," which will have 50 taps serving Budweiser beers.
The NFL has worked with the city and the police department to keep Draft Town safe. There will be bag checks upon entrance and ample security on hand.
The weekend will be closed out by a concert in the park, which will be headlined by Phillip Phillips.
If you're into football, bros in golf shirts or the celebration of brain trauma, then you should definitely check out the Draft when it comes to town. If not, stay as far away as possible.