GRANT PARK — Football fans attending this month's draft festival in Grant Park will see a lot more than a Ferris wheel.
The NFL released Friday more details of its "Draft Town" festival running April 28 to 30 in Grant Park. Bigger than last year's, this month's festival will allow guests to enter a replica locker room, use virtual reality headsets, and get a digitized bronze bust of themselves as if they were in the Hall of Fame.
"A second chance means bigger and better," Kara Bachman, executive director of the Chicago Sports Commission, said late last month.
A rendering of the Draft Town festival at night. [Provided]
If last year's "Draft Town" festival inhabiting Grant Park took up 15 to 16 football fields, this one will occupy more than 20, the NFL says. The focus of this year's festival will also shift further away from Michigan Avenue and more toward the lakefront, with TV sets and the draft's "selection square" where picks are announced encircling Buckingham Fountain.
The Ferris wheel, a new attraction, will sit on a Grant Park lawn at roughly Van Buren Street, offering spectators sky-high views of the draft as well as the city skyline. Last year, fans were able to run a 40-yard dash alongside NFL stars on an LED screen, hop in a skydiving simulator, or compete in a five-on-five flag football tournament, among other activities.
Chicago was deemed a successful host last year, but city officials drew scrutiny for waiving a nearly $1 million park rental fee for the NFL, a multibillion dollar enterprise. City officials last month indicated the fee would be waived again, citing the NFL's "tremendous investment." The Chicago Park District has yet to respond to a Freedom of Information Request seeking the NFL's contract documents with the park district.
Last year's draft delivered 37,000 booked room nights and an overall $82 million economic impact, $44 million of which was direct spending, according to a spokeswoman for city tourism booster Choose Chicago.
Like last year, admission to this year's festival will be free. The festival this year will run from noon to 10 p.m. Thursday, April 28; noon to 10 p.m. Friday, April 29; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 30.
Here are all the attractions on deck for this month's "Draft Town" festival:
• The Vince Lombardi Trophy.
•The Ferris wheel
•Replica NFL locker rooms with "the sights of the real NFL pregame with sleek translucent LCD" screens.
•NFL Museum with Chicago Bears memorabilia, Super Bowl rings and Conference Championship trophies. Fans can get their bronze bust digitized.
•College Football Corner: view College Football Hall of Fame memorabilia with life-size player mannequins.
•AFC & NFC Stages with appearances by NFL team mascots, cheerleaders and drumlines.
•Experience NFL games using virtual reality technology.
•"Draft Town Tailgate" – Enjoy selections from Chicago’s restaurants, which were not disclosed Friday.
•ESPN and NFL Network TV sets.
•NFL Draft shop.
•Get a picture taken behind the podium at the official NFL Draft set.
• Wilson Football Factory: see how NFL game balls are made.
•NFL Draft Tavern presented by Bud Light.
•Grab a bag of Skittles at the Skittles Locker Room.
•Free Oikos yogurt samples.
•Taste up to 12 flavors of Mountain Dew products.
•Pepsi tasting room.
•FedEx Shipping Center for delivering gifts bought at Draft Town.
•Verizon charging station.
•Tostitos Cantina – Chat with current and former NFL players and grab a bag of Tostitos Cantina Chipotle Thins.
•Combine Corner with vertical jumps and the 40-yard dash against virtual NFL players.
•NFL PLAY 60 Clinic Field: Local USA Football coaches and NFL players will demonstrate tackling and other drills.
•Free football clinics open to boys and girls ages 6-14:
Thursday, April 28: 4 to 8 p.m.
Friday, April 29: 4 to 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 30: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
•NFL PLAY 60 Zone Obstacle Course with agility drills, high-jump, and weavingthrough mini tackling dummies.
•Kids’ Long Snap, quarterback challenge, extra point kicks, and trying on NFL gear.
•NFL Draft Family Football Clinic from 9:30 – 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29 with Mike and Chris Golic. Registration begins at 9 a.m.
•Flag football tournament Saturday in Grant Park.
•Autographs from current NFL players and Hall of Famers. A list of players confirmed to be attending the draft:
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