The NFL today announced some initial details for the upcoming NFL draft festivities in Cleveland taking place April 29 to May 1 that include limited in-person attendance at an outdoor stage next to FirstEnergy Stadium and Lake Erie where Commissioner Roger Goodell will welcome players to their new teams, musical performances at the Rock Hall and fan events inside and around the stadium.
Masks will be mandatory and access to the immediate stage area will be limited to people already vaccinated against Covid and picked by the teams as well as the league and host city.
Specific limits on capacity will be set at a later date by the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio, and while it won't allow the crowd sizes of pre-pandemic NFL Drafts it will still be a marquee affair and the largest event in Cleveland since the 2016 RNC.
“We have been characterizing it as a ‘large, live, in-person event,'” said Greater Cleveland Sports Commission CEO David Gilbert told the Sports Business Journal
, but, “... not everybody who wants to get in will be able to get in.”
Still, thousands are expected to safely descend on downtown Cleveland with about as much fanfare as one could hope for given the current public health situation. Separate from fan attendees, some 6,000 reporters and staff are expected to work the event.
The lakeside setup near the Great Lakes Science Center will include live outdoor performances at the Rock Hall and the stadium will be open to some number of fans to watch festivities on giant video screens and attempt field goals on the field itself, among other entertainment options.
In addition to representing some return to normalcy as coronavirus numbers dip and jabs in arms continue apace, the NFL hopes to use the event to spread a pro-vax message to help get the world back to normal quicker.
“This draft in particular feels like it represents hope beyond that, because we hope to role model and showcase a bit of what a brighter future continues to look like, in terms of being able to do live, in-person events safely,” NFL Exec VP/Club Business & League Events Peter O’Reilly told the SBJ.