CLEVELAND - As football fans from around the country converge on Dallas for this weekend's NFL Draft they will be taking part in one of the fastest growing events in sports. Something that grew first as a television event in the early 80's has grown into an event that drew 250,000 to Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway last year over the three day event.
Now as Dallas takes center stage, Cleveland and Canton wait to hear if their bid for either the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft will be accepted by the league.
They are one of five finalists whittled down from more than 20 to host the draft with the others including Las Vegas, Nashville, Denver and Kansas City.
"There were several steps along the way including a couple of different types of written bids, a presentation in New York to a large number of NFL officials and a site visit as well," said Greater Cleveland Sports Commission President & CEO David Gilbert.
"Bring it Home" is the theme of the Northeast Ohio bid pointing out that this area really is home to the NFL, it was born here in Canton in 1920, flourished here and as the players who will kick off the league's second century are drafted they argue in a promotional video, it should be done here.
"Introduce the next generation of football fans to Ohio through the two cities where football was born. Introduce them to the future with the past and bring it home," said Cleveland Browns legend and Hall of Famer Jim Brown.
In the proposal, Canton would host a pre-draft welcoming reception at the Football Hall of Fame with Cleveland's Public Hall to serve as the actual site of the NFL Draft. Members of the site selection committee were in earlier this month to see the Hall's transformation into a television studio for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.
"Honestly I think they were very impressed with the facility when they saw it on the site visit but particularly having a couple of them come back and see the way it looks for inductions was even better," said Gilbert. "It is a really impressive facility, it is so beautiful and very little else like it in the country."
The malls outside of Public Hall along with Public Square and the Convention Center would serve as the location for NFL Experience festival activities.
"That is really where all the people come in, about 250,000 people would be on the malls and Public Square and in the Convention Center and potentially other pieces in Canton at the Hall of Fame as well," said Gilbert.
A Temple University study on the economic impact of the draft on Philadelphia found that of those 250,000 participants, 63 percent of them were from out of town with 17 percent staying overnight. The direct spend on hotels, restaurants and bars was $56.1 million with an overall economic impact of the draft of $94.9 million.
Because so many fans are willing to travel to this, Gilbert believes Northeast Ohio has another selling point.
"We're within an eight hour drive of more than half of all NFL markets, so we think that we've got a very, very big base to draw from and think that if they choose Cleveland it will be extremely successful," he said.
If it's 2019 it would also be the first jab of a one-two punch since the city has already slated to host the MLB All-Star game in July of that year.
A decision is expected to be announced at the upcoming NFL Owners meetings in Atlanta which will take place May 21-23.