If and when the NFL decides to move its ridiculously popular draft out of New York, as soon as 2015 or at some later point, it will have no shortage of suitors. According to a league source, the number of cities interested in hosting the event has grown to a whopping 11, outside of New York.
The league will discuss the site and date of the 2015 draft at its one-day spring owners' meeting next week in Atlanta, though no definitive decision on where and when that draft will be held is expected to come together that quickly. The league is still waiting to hear the final spring schedule of New York's Radio City Music Hall, where the event has been held since 2006, and could have that information by the time the owners convene in Atlanta.
While the owners will be consulted on how to proceed with the draft, it continues to look as if the NFL is leaning in the direction of taking the event on the road, by 2016 at the latest, perhaps deciding the host city or cities by a bidding process that would allow the league to further monetize the event. Other than New York, the cities known to be interested in playing host to the draft include Dallas, Green Bay, Houston, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago and Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dallas has emerged as a particularly interesting and attractive possibility, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offering his five-year-old $1 billion-plus AT&T Stadium as a venue for the draft. The league is said to be surprised by both the level of serious interest and the amount of cities that hope to vie for the event. The idea of attracting thousands of fans to the Cowboys' stadium for the draft is a very appealing one to the NFL, especially since the proceedings could be shown on the team's gigantic video boards in-house, while representatives from each of the league's 32 teams and league officials are ensconced upstairs conducting the draft on the suite level.
At last week's draft in New York, a league source told SI.com that the NFL didn't know if it was logistically feasible to move the draft in 2015, though they pointed out that the bulk of the detailed planning behind such a decision had yet to be done. Transplanting the draft to a site like Chicago or Dallas seemed more likely for 2015 than a cross-country relocation to Los Angeles, the source said.
The league in one scenario could choose to hold the draft in multiple cities in the same year, possibly even 2015. The first round would be conducted at one venue, with the event then being moved to another city, or possibly two, for an undetermined number of later rounds.
Radio City Music Hall is not out of the picture for next year's draft, and the NFL holds an option to have the event there for a 10th consecutive year. But the league does not want its draft affected by the scheduling conflict that arose last year, when the league pushed the event back two weeks -- to May 8-10 -- ostensibly in reaction to Radio City's plans for a new spring show featuring the Rockettes. That show subsequently was cancelled in March due to a lack of ticket sales, but the NFL has been informed that Radio City intends to try to put on the show again in 2015. The league has not made a decision on whether to move the draft back into April as it has been traditionally held, or remain in May, possibly at an even later date.