DOWNTOWN — The NFL's takeover of Grant Park next week is valued at millions of dollars, but the league will pay much less.
The NFL will pay about $103,000 to inhabit Chicago's premier park for its Draft Town festival, a three-day spectacle whose rent the Chicago Park District values at about $3.2 million, according to documents received via the Freedom of Information Act.
Once again the nation's largest professional sports league received a generous fee waiver for use of the park, which will house a free festival expected to draw thousands of football fans Downtown next week. Last year the park district waived a $937,500 rental fee for Draft Town, the documents show.
David Matthews on the benefits of the NFL bringing the draft to Chicago.
City officials point out, however, that last year's draft led to 37,000 booked room nights and an overall $82 million economic impact, $44 million of which was direct spending.
Though the waiver shows a big discount for the NFL, a multi-billion dollar enterprise, parks officials said they offer the same courtesy to similar events with free admission such as the Taste of Chicago, Chicago Blues Festival and the Bud Billiken Parade. Many organizations, especially those promoting events that last several days, receive fee waivers.
"The Chicago Park District has a long history and tradition of hosting amazing events within our beautiful parks for all to enjoy," Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a park district spokeswoman, said in a statement. "The draft is another example of this type of partnership."
The park district did not address why the NFL is paying some of its rental fee, unlike last year, or how the NFL's rental fee could more than triple from last year. An NFL executive did not return a message seeking comment.
The NFL is going bigger in its return to Chicago, with the Draft Town festival from April 28 to 30, with attractions including a Ferris wheel, youth football clinics and games, pop-up football museums and replica locker rooms.
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