ATLANTA –* *Amy Adams Strunk heard the buzz in recent weeks, and hoped.
Strunk, controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans, knew officials from the NFL had been to Nashville on multiple occasions for site visits. She’d heard positive feedback in recent weeks regarding the city’s chances of hosting the NFL Draft.
Here on Wednesday at the spring meetings, when the news became official -- Nashville will host the 2019 NFL Draft – she could hardly contain her excitement. The same could be said for football fans roughly 250 miles away in the Music City.
“I love the movie 'Rudy',” Strunk said with a smile. “Well, this is our 'Rudy' moment. It totally is. We just wanted a chance. Give Nashville a chance and we will prove to you that you made the right choice. And they made the right choice. It is going to be huge.”
Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood said the city is ready to take the ball and run with it.
“I think this could be the largest NFL-related event the country has ever seen as far as crowd turnout, in terms of venues that are available downtown,” Underwood said. “What we can do with the draft I think is almost unlimited. We are expecting to have tens of thousands of people come to Nashville next April, and we’re going to be ready for them.
“We do want to reinvent the wheel – that’s exactly what we plan to do. We want this to be the best draft that the league has ever seen. We have made clear to the special events committee, and we have made clear to the league: We are going to pull out all the stops and try and put on the greatest show Nashville has ever seen. You could not pick a better venue to hold an event as special as the NFL Draft than Nashville.
“We are not going to drop the ball. We are going to pull this off – we are not going to let anyone down.”
Nashville was one of five finalists for hosting the draft in 2019 or 2020, in contention with Kansas City, Denver, Las Vegas and Cleveland/Canton.
The league decided on Nashville for 2019 following a review of the proposal by the Super Bowl & Major Events Advisory Committee and full ownership.
The dates for next year’s draft have been set: April 25-27.
Peter O’Reilly, NFL Senior Vice President of Events, said the exact location for the festivities won’t be known for a while.
The footprint discussed in the downtown area includes Nissan Stadium, lower Broadway, Ascend Amphitheater, the Music City Center, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Music City Walk of Fame Park. According to the NFL, the draft will incorporate “iconic city landmarks across the Music City stretching from Lower Broadway to Nissan Stadium.”
The 2018 NFL Draft was held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. After holding the draft each year in New York City, the NFL turned the draft into a road show in recent years, holding it in Philadelphia in 2017, and Chicago in 2015 and 2016.
“Nashville is an incredibly hot city and they created a really strong vision for the draft, and taking it to another level,” O’Reilly said. “The new draft, if you will, is still in a very young phase -- Chicago, Philadelphia, and what we saw in Dallas. Nashville presented a vision that we felt, and more importantly the owners we work with closely felt, would continue to grow the draft. … That really energized us and the owners around Nashville having the opportunity to take the draft to another level.
“I think Nashville can be really unique. We have really high expectations on what that can create. You feel the energy of the town, and bringing in fans from all 32 clubs and all over the country. ... We have really high expectations.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement on Wednesday morning at a press conference from the Whitley Hotel in Buckhead.
He looked in Strunk’s direction as he delivered the news, and afterward the two posed for a picture holding an NFL Draft helmet.
“We are proud to be announcing today that we are going to select Nashville as the host for the 2019 draft. So congratulations to Amy and the city of Nashville – you are now on the clock,” Goodell said. “We are thrilled, and we look forward to being in Nashville.”
Strunk said the team “gladly” moves into the spotlight.
Underwood praised Strunk for her leadership, and thanked Butch Spyridon of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, the city of Nashville, and the team’s partners in Nashville, which includes Scott Ramsey of the Sports Council.
The success of the team’s uniform unveil in downtown Nashville on April 4th, which drew more than 20,000 fans and included a concert by Florida Georgia Line, made a good impression on league officials, O’Reilly said.
“Amy’s leadership has been instrumental in getting things like the 2019 NFL Draft,” Underwood said. “I can’t tell you what a privilege we think it is. We are proud, but humbled by being awarded the draft. But we owe a lot of that to the Visitor and Convention Bureau, to our partners with the Metropolitan Government and to the leadership of Amy Strunk.”
Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he thought the league made a good decision.
“I love it,” Khan said. “I have been to Nashville a lot, I have a lot of friends there. I’ve always had a great time. I think with the country music, really the new vibe. It’s a great place. Modern America.”
Round 1 of the NFL Draft will be on Thursday, April 25. Rounds 2 and 3 will follow on Friday, April 26, and Rounds 4-7 will conclude the event on Saturday, April 27.
Goodell presides over the first day of the NFL Draft. In previous years, many of the players projected as first-round draft picks have been invited to attend.
As part of the event, the NFL Draft Experience Presented By Oikos Triple Zero® – a massive free football festival – will allow fans of all teams to participate and test their football skills, enjoy interactive exhibits and autograph sessions, and take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, according to a release from the NFL. The Draft Experience will be open all three days of the event.
The 2018 event set a record as the highest-rated and most-watched draft ever, eclipsing the previous record set in 2014. The 2018 Draft marked the first time that the entirety of the event was aired on broadcast television, which helped attract more than 45 million total viewers over three days of coverage. According to the NFL, the 2018 NFL Draft ranks as the second-most talked about sports event this year across social platforms, behind only Super Bowl LII.
The economic impact of the draft – and the exposure for the city – will be huge, O’Reilly said.
“You feel the energy of the town. And the power of bringing music and football together -- we have really high expectations on what that can create,” O’Reilly said.
“And when you talk about hard numbers. We are waiting on the Dallas economic impact report, but in Philadelphia the economic impact report showed $95 million in economic impact for the city, bringing fans into hotels and eating in restaurants. And then you couple that with 45 million people watched the draft this year, and all eyes were on it… The exposure for a city, especially for a place like Nashville, where the backdrop will be the city itself. It’s huge.”
Strunk had a big smile after leaving the press conference following the big announcement.
She can hardly wait to see how things play out in 11 months.
“It’s a great city,” she said. “Everything is walkable, the honky-tonks, the parties and the bands, the celebration of the sport we love. It is pretty hard to beat. It is going to have a unique feel for the NFL Draft.
“And I think it brings reality to our fans: We may be a small market, but we are ready for the big stage.”