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Everything you need to know about attending the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland

Draft set for April 29 - May 1
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Posted at 9:01 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 18:49:35-04

CLEVELAND — The NFL announced that up to 50,000 fans will be allowed inside the Draft Experience, an interactive theme park that’s free and open to the public around FirstEnergy Stadium during all three days of the draft.

An NFL spokesperson confirmed to News 5 that tickets are still available for Friday and Saturday's sessions, and can be obtained through via the NFL OnePass App.

“The plans have evolved,” said Nicki Ewell, NFL Director of Events. “We added additional capacity and inventory for the Draft Experience last night based on conversations with the city and the department of health and CDC."

For perspective, 25,000 fans were allowed at the Super Bowl in Tampa in February, including 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers.

“This is a really different, different draft because I think it's a hybrid draft,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL Executive Vice President of Club Business & League Events. “A year ago, we were hosting a Draft in Commissioner [Roger] Goodell's basement, and the world was early in the pandemic. And now a year later, we're looking towards brighter days ahead and so thrilled that we can do a large-scale live event safely.”

How to watch the NFL Draft

If you're not able to make it out to watch the Draft live, or would just prefer to watch from the comfort of your home, you can watch it on-air on News 5 Cleveland.

There are also several options to watch it streaming online - click here for details and links to the apps you'll need.

How to Reserve Tickets to the NFL Draft Experience

Fans must download the app and select a date and session to reserve a free ticket. Once activated, fans can use NFL OnePass to play games, receive digital content, and enter to win exclusive prizes. Session registration will be limited to one session over the three-day period for two adults and up to five minors per transaction.

Timed tickets will be accessible via the app for all three days of the Draft, with three time slots each day, spreading out the anticipated 50,000 daily fans. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday, April 29

  • 12 p.m.- 4 p.m.
  • 4 p.m-7 p.m.
  • 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Friday, April 30

  • 12 p.m.-4 p.m.
  • 4 p.m.-7 p.m.
  • 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Saturday, May 1

  • 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • 12 p.m.-3 p.m.
  • 3 p.m.- 6 p.m.

For more information, click here. Fans unable to obtain a reservation will not be allowed to walk up and enter the NFL Draft experience.

What can I do at the Draft Experience?

The Draft Experience, which spans 2.5 million square feet in and around FirstEnergy Stadium, will feature a 40-yard dash, flag football clinics, vertical jump against NFL players on LED screens, a closeup of the Lombardi Trophy, photo booths and a Super Bowl rings display.

“You also get to experience the stadium in a way you haven't before,” O’Reilly said. “You can go down on the field, kick a field goal, run the 40 on the field. Those types of experiences that are free and accessible and part of the Draft make it really unique in this one special.”

Food and drink zones were created in an effort to limit mask enforcement.

"FirstEnergy Stadium and outside the stadium will have food and beverage zones that you can get a cold Bud Light and get a cold Pepsi—you can have a taste of Cleveland tailgate,” Ewell said. “We have a lot of great restaurants that are participating and you can safely pull your mask down in those areas, including the 100 level of the stadium as well. The concessions are going to be open so you can safely eat and drink in those areas. But we ask that you not leave those zones with any food and beverage.”

Some attractions were closed on Friday due to the rain, including the 40-yard dash and on-field youth football clinic.

For a full list of attractions, click here.

RELATED: How to get tickets for the NFL Draft Experience in Cleveland

Do I need to be fully vaccinated to attend?

Yes and no.

You are not required to prove vaccination for the Draft Experience.

Those looking to attend the Draft will be required to wear face masks or coverings, even if they are fully vaccinated, and follow the social distancing guidelines and other safety protocols implemented around the city for the three-day event. Masks will be provided to those who need them. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up around the event.

“The protocols are really important and the enforcement of those will be strong,” O’Reilly said.

However, a “vaccinated fan zone,” which includes the Draft stage, is limited to 4,000 - 5,000 fans who obtained passes from the NFL, which have started going out to invited fans, and proved they are fully vaccinated. That means bringing their ID and vaccination card, and completing the necessary time after your last dose to be fully vaccinated, which needed to be completed by April 15.

“When we wanted to bring in more fans, closer to the action, we knew that being vaccinated was going to be prominent in that plan,” Ewell said.

Vaccinated fans were selected to be part of the zone by the 32 NFL clubs and also had the option on the NFL OnePass app when reserving tickets for the Draft Experience to select if they'd be fully vaccinated by April 15 for possible selection to the exclusive zone.

"Typically, the draft is a free flowing event between the Draft experience and the mainstage and fans are able to flow through both," said Heather Nanberg, NFL Director of Events. "Unfortunately, because of health and safety protocols, we are not able to set it up that way this year. But we think we’ve come up with a really great solution to give fans as much access as possible."

Fans who have been fully vaccinated by April 15 and have a reservation to the NFL Draft Experience during a session that coincides with Draft selections will be able to bring their vaccine card with them and get verified on-site to potentially gain access to the vaccinated fan zone as well.

“We had 55 million people watch the Draft last year,” O’Reilly added. “A lot of people will be seeing what those types of experiences are that can exist when you do get fully vaccinated and hopefully we come through the other side of this fully.”

"With the vaccinations, we felt this hopefully sets the tone for what the future holds for all of us," said Eric Finkelstein, NFL Senior Director of Event Planning.

To learn more about health and safety protocols, click here for the league’s draft safety playbook.

Where else can I watch the Draft?

During all three days of the NFL Draft, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission have planned COVID-19 protocol compliant viewing and dining areas for fans to hang out and watch the Draft in.

The "Rock the Clock End Zones" will feature seating, live music from local DJs and broadcasts of the Draft.

RELATED: Kings of Leon named main act to kick off first day of 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland

Rock the Clock End Zones will have three locations downtown: Playhouse Square at US Bank Plaza, on Old River Road in Flats East Bank and on Mall C.

Guests at the Rock the Clock End Zones will be able to bring in carry-out food from local downtown restaurants, although alcohol will not be permitted. There will be food trucks and other concessions available for purchase on Mall C.

All three locations will follow the NFL and City of Cleveland's clear bag policy and prohibited items list, and health and safety protocols will mirror that of the NFL Draft Experience, which includes face coverings when not seated or actively consuming food and beverage and social distancing.

Here is the viewing schedule for the Draft at the Rock the Clock End Zone locations:

Playhouse Square at US Bank Plaza

  • Thursday, April 29: 3PM - 10PM
  • Friday, April 30: 3PM - 10PM

Flats East Bank on Old River Road (Outside Thirsty Dog & Dante’s Inferno)

  • Thursday, April 29: 3PM - 10PM
  • Friday, April 30: 3PM - 10PM

Mall C

  • Thursday, April 29: 12PM - 10PM
  • Friday, April 30: 12PM - 10PM
  • Saturday, May 1: 12PM - 7PM

There will be capacity limits at the Rock, the Clock End Zone locations and admission will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets and reservations are not required.

Fans can also turn their attention to the Terminal Tower, which will light up with different colors based on which team is on clock.

RELATED: Where to view the 2021 NFL Draft around Downtown Cleveland

Where to eat

Some local restaurants serving food at the NFL Draft in Cleveland:

  • Ohio City BBQ
  • Nuevo
  • Cocky's Bagels
  • UnBar Cafe
  • Sauce the City
  • Mallorca
  • Der Braumeister
  • Irie Jamaican Kitchen
  • Ninja City Kitchen & Bar
  • KG's Homebaked Goodness
  • Barrio
  • Anna in the Raw
  • Spark Kitchen

What about the weather? Can I bring an umbrella?

The forecast calls for temperatures stuck in the 50s and 60s on Thursday with “widespread soaking rain likely.”

A spokesperson with the NFL told News 5 fans will be allowed to bring an umbrella inside the NFL Draft Experience in the event it rains.

Friday and Saturday are expected to stay in the 50s as well.

NFL organizers told News 5 several contingency plans are in place should the weather become an issue, something Cleveland fans know all too well.

“It’s the NFL and we play in all weather,” Finkelstein said. ”We had snow last week and we would’ve been ready to go if we needed to be.”

What is the bag policy?

Similar to attending an NFL game, fans will follow the league’s “clear bag policy.”

According to NFL.com:

Fans will be able to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container at stadium plaza areas, stadium gates, or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium:

  • Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12" x 6" x 12." (Official NFL team logo clear plastic tote bags will be available through club merchandise outlets or at nflshop.com), or
  • No buckles, grommets/hardware or décor can be concealing any part of the bag. The bag literally must be all clear.
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziplock bag or similar).

The league said that strollers will be allowed but again reminded families to keep the clear bag policy in mind.

To learn more about the policy, click here.

“We really want to make sure our fans are well informed before they come down so that they can plan their day,” Ewell added.

What happens to the stage after the Draft?

The Draft Theatre, which measures 220’ wide, 225’ deep and 95’ tall, will come down in about 7-10 days, leaving a clear space and a clean slate where warehouses once stood. As part of NFL Green, the event materials used at the Draft will be repurposed.

Because of the space needed for proper social distancing, the NFL Draft Theater is the largest structure ever built for the NFL Draft, featuring 400 LED fixtures.

“If we maybe inspired thinking about how that space could be used differently in the future, nestled there between the Rock Hall and the Science Center, that would be a good thing,” O’Reilly said. “How do you think about using that lakefront in different ways and maybe we can inspire something in the future.

Are there any specials for the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the Draft?

As part of Draft weekend, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is offering extended hours as well as an admission discount for fans who use the NFL OnePass app to purchase tickets or who show the app at the box office.

RELATED: Pro Football Hall of Fame offering extended hours, opening new exhibit, discounts during NFL Draft weekend

City officials and Draft organizers have addressed their hopes that fans in town for the Draft make it a whole weekend adventure and find time to make it down to Canton to check out the Hall of Fame.

RELATED: Myles Garrett to announce Night 2 Draft selections for Browns, 58 prospects confirmed to participate

Clay LePard is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @ClayLePard

Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.