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For a city beset by COVID-19, the NFL Draft's impact goes well beyond the economic

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Posted at 6:55 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 19:04:56-04

CLEVELAND — The NFL Draft has grown into one of those events that are among the most coveted in all sports for the impact that it can have on the host community. But that impact goes well beyond the financial.

For 14 months, Congress has been working on ways to help America recover from the pandemic — economic bridges for individuals and businesses. For Northeast Ohio, the Draft is an economic, psychological, and overall emotional stimulus that you simply can’t put a price tag on.

Walk around Downtown Cleveland this week and you can’t help but notice the - smiles. Even if they’re hidden under masks, you can see it in the eyes of those wanting to be outside and around the excitement of the NFL Draft — longing for that sense of normalcy again.

“Cleveland needs this, Ohio needs this,” said Gordon Keaton, a fan in from Akron. “It just stimulates people in general.”

It’s not just the people — it’s the businesses, those that have somehow managed to navigate the uncharted waters of COVID-19, that are looking at this week as their coming-out party.

“We’ve heard from some that have said this is what they’ve been hoping for to keep them hanging on to the other side of COVID,” said David Gilbert, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.

Market Garden’s Sam McNulty gets it.

“There's no doubt we all tested positive for cabin fever and I think this is our answer,” he said, “We can get back out, start being social again.”

Momentum to start May that the folks at the Flats East Bank hope to spark an early start to summer.

“Luckily, just like our city, we’re very resilient, we’re coming back stronger than ever this year, we have a lot of new businesses that are going to be open,” said Angela Nagal, Director of Marketing for Flats East Bank. “We hope that you keep on watching us.”

Beyond this week, the NFL Draft has the potential to reach millions for Cleveland through social media posts, selfies in front of the Rock Hall stage, as well as the stadium beyond. Factor on top of that a worldwide television audience of 55 million people, and you understand the impact that positive impressions can have, not only on future visitors but for future convention planners as well.

“The people in this world know the cities that can deliver and the draft if it gets pulled off as well as we certainly hope it will, will absolutely be another important piece of our resume going forward to keep us as one of those top cities,” Gilbert said.

That’s in the future. For now, the best location in the nation is the envy of the nation for what the draft is giving us on the outside and in.

“A lot of people have made fun of Cleveland over the years but I’ve always been proud to say I’m from Cleveland,” said John Jereb.

That civic pride, we’re told, was one of the deciding factors for the RNC in Cleveland in 2016, and the NFL Draft.