Nashville may be the smallest market the NFL Draft will be held in during the league’s modern era.
But Music City’s proven ability to throw a big party is a significant reason the league awarded Nashville the 2019 draft.
Next April’s draft will be the latest and largest in a series of significant events based in or around downtown, ranging from the yearly CMA Fest to international soccer games, the Music City bowl, the NHL All-Star game and the NCAA women’s Final Four, among many others.
“It’s been a progression of large-scale events, and hosting the CMA Music Fest every year is a great example,” Titans senior vice president Stuart Spears said. “The NFL Draft is huge. It’s something the city has not ever experienced, but I feel the city is willing, ready and (most importantly) able to execute.”
Added Nashville Mayor David Briley: “I’m sure the reason the NFL picked us is because we’ve already demonstrated we’re capable of handling events like this. Every year we hold big events like these multiple times, so we’ll be ready.”
It’s not just that Music City has successfully handled big events in the past, but also the fact that Nashville has done so with its trademark style, that enticed the NFL. The league’s hope that host cities would infuse the draft with their own personalities made this entertainment spot a natural selection.
“Nashville is an electric city at this point,” Spears said. “It has a great reputation nationally, a great buzz, both across this country and really globally. So there was that flicker of awareness and excitement in peoples’ minds that this city could make it work.”
The three venues of the weeklong draft will include the draft theater (where teams make their formal selections), selection square (where each individual team is based) and the NFL Draft Experience where fans can participate in activities and enjoy interactive exhibits.
All of the sites will be within walking distance of one another, which will only increase the party atmosphere at spots like Nissan Stadium, lower Broadway, Ascend Amphitheater, the Music City Center, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Music City Walk of Fame Park.
“I think people have come to understand the combination of social life and music here, and that nobody throws a party like Nashville,” Spears said. “So it allows the draft to be elevated from just a procedural activity for making player selections to a party—a giant Honky Tonk where (player selections) will be going on. There will be so much more going on around the periphery, I think unlike they’ve been able to achieve in any of the cities that have hosted it so far.”
Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, noted there would be plenty of work to do here over the next 11 months in preparation for the draft, which drew about 400,000 visitors in Dallas this year. But he also pointed out that Music City’s current number of hotel rooms (estimated at about 29,000 now) will be boosted to 31-32,000 by then, which will help support NFL Draft fans as well as participants in that weekend’s Nashville Marathon.
Briley noted the construction of Nissan Stadium two decades ago was a moment that sent Nashville in a very positive direction, and that the arrival of the NFL Draft here will serve as another step for the city moving forward.
“Now the NFL sees that Nashville is really the best place in the country for this kind of event,” Briley said. “We have the right venues, the right hotels, the right restaurants, the best music and the one and only lower Broad.
“Nashville is a place where over the decades, lots of people have seen their dreams come true. In this coming year, more than 200 NFL draft picks will see that take place for them as well.”
Spears said Nashville’s selection as host city for the 2019 NFL Draft was just the kind of moment former owner Bud Adams looked forward to when he originally chose to bring the franchise here.
So perhaps it was only fitting that his daughter, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, played such a significant role in making the draft a reality years later.
“On behalf of everyone within the Titans’ organization, we want to tip our hat to our controlling owner, Amy Adams Strunk,” Spears said. “Her commitment to bring this event to Nashville was unwavering.
“Her ability to sell commissioner (Roger) Goodell and her fellow NFL owners on what makes Nashville impressive was key. Nashville beat out many other great cities to host this event, and Amy Adams Strunk was our ace in the hole.”