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NFL Asked For Free Ride From City To Host NFL Draft

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 6, 2015 5:40PM

Photo credit: Stephanie Barto

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is fond of saying his initiatives are all a part of making Chicago a “world-class city” and says it so often we’ve created a “world-class city” drinking game. What is rarely known is at what Emanuel promises to convince corporate businesses to relocate their headquarters downtown and how that will cost taxpayers down the road.

We may have an idea what Emanuel and Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism arm, promised to lure the NFL Draft to Chicago this spring, thanks to documents obtained by the Tribune. The litany of demands from the NFL includes a security plan that makes the NATO summit seem like the St. Patrick’s Day parade, by comparison, and at no cost to the league.

Cordoning off stretches of road around Grant Park and Congress Plaza, including a key stretch of Congress Parkway between Michigan Avenue and Wabash Avenue, for nearly three weeks.

Free use of the Auditorium Theatre and other spaces owned by Roosevelt University from April 19 to May 6, free WiFi and other technology for the NFL and its partners at all locations and free parking for NFL staff, TV crews and production trucks.

Free parking at draft venues and free police escorts for prospective draft picks and NFL "dignitaries."

Creation and enforcement of a "clean zone" city ordinance banning temporary commercial activity in and near draft venues.

City "resources" to help keep unofficial advertising away from the made-for-TV event, otherwise known as ambush marketing.

Outdoor space for a "village" for about 15 "sponsor activation zones" and football fields for youth clinics and events for five days. Also, three "Party Spaces" for NFL events: one for 150 people that serves Anheuser-Busch brewing products, one for up to 700 people with concert space April 29 and one for 250 people for a lunch with television shooting capability.

Along with Choose Chicago, promotional material and signage worth at least $4 million.
Commitment to host the 2016 NFL draft (this was agreed to by the city, documents show), if the NFL decides to keep it in Chicago.

Commitments from 13 hotels to reserve rooms for prospective players, NFL staff and others. Chicago's bid included hundreds of pages from hotels outlining their reserved room rates.

This is a sports league that settled a class-action concussion lawsuit for $765 million and, thanks to sponsorship agreements and broadcast deals, prints money hand over fist and has weathered the storm of several high-profile cases involving star players and domestic violence. But this is “Mayor 1 Percent” we’re talking about here and, like the ongoing debates over the Lucas Museum and Obama Presidential Library proposals, nothing will stand in the way of Emanuel making Chicago a “world-class city.” (Take a shot.)

Neither the NFL nor Choose Chicago offered details on what the city promised the league in order to land the draft, but Choose Chicago CEO Don Welsh said it will cost taxpayers nothing but that his office needs to raise up to $4 million and the NFL is also putting some skin into the game. (We would hope so.)

Here’s an example of what the NFL does when it doesn’t get its way. In 2013, South Florida voters rejected a proposal to use tax dollars to finance renovations for Dolphins Stadium. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross eventually bankrolled the renovations himself, but the vote torpedoed any chances Miami would host Super Bowl 50, which will be held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California instead.