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Limited Fans will be allowed in 2021 NFL Draft

Late last month, the NFL announced that a limited number of prospects, fans and media crews will be allowed inside the Draft Experience, an interactive theme park that’s free and open to the public around FirstEnergy Stadium. The three-day event, which spans from April 29 to May 1, will offer free events for fans in accordance with public officials at the state and local levels. Fans attending draft activities will be required to wear face coverings and adhere to appropriate physical distancing.

“The plans have evolved,” said Nicki Ewell, NFL Director of Events, in a statement late last week. “We added additional capacity and inventory for the Draft Experience based on conversations with the city and the department of health and CDC. We expect to be sold out in the next couple of days.”

According to the National Football League, the draft is slated to have up to 50,000 fans in attendance this year. The last time the league allowed fans at the draft was in 2019, where 600,000 fans were at the event hosted in Nashville. Although the number was hoped to be higher, this will still be one of the biggest gatherings run by the NFL in the past year. The largest event so far was the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, which allowed around 25,000 fans and 7,500 healthcare workers.

The 86th annual draft, deemed Draft Experience, will be held across three iconic locations in downtown Cleveland. This includes FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, with the main stage being located in the North Coast Harbor just outside of FirstEnergy Stadium against the backdrop of Lake Erie.

“We are thrilled to be heading to Cleveland for the NFL Draft, which has become one of the most highly anticipated events in sports,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL executive vice president, club business and league events. “Just months after executing a safe and successful Super Bowl LV, we look forward to bringing the excitement of our Draft traditions to fans in collaboration with the Browns, Destination Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the City of Cleveland, and all of our local Cleveland partners.”

The unprecedented event spans 2.5 million square feet and will feature a 40-yard dash, flag football clinics, vertical jump against NFL players on LED screens, field goal attempts, photo booths and a Super Bowl ring/Vince Lombardi Trophy display. 

“You also get to experience the stadium in a way you haven’t before,” O’Reilly said. “You can go down on the field, kick a field goal, run the 40 on the field. Those types of experiences that are free and accessible and part of the Draft make it really unique in this one special.”

Several companies have partnered with the NFL and will host festivities at the draft. Panini, a large trading card company, will be sponsoring two activities, including a booth for NFL Draft photo frames. They’ll also have a booth dedicated to customize digital trading cards made for fans.

Oakley, which manufactures sports performance equipment and lifestyle pieces, will be setting up an interactive O-Lab so fans can test products and vision technologies.

Face covering and physical distancing will be required for all visitors in attendance of draft activities. They’ll be required to practice social distancing of six feet for games, restrooms, concessions and other activities. Families and groups of friends can be together, but they must stay socially distant from other groups. When the draft begins, teams will invite a number of vaccinated fan ambassadors to sit in the “Inner Circle,” where they will have a front-row view of commissioner Roger Goodell’s pick announcements.

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