Chicago draft sees no major issues, draws thousands of fans

By Eric Clark, video by Courtney Dillard

The NFL’s first-ever two-site draft encountered few glitches over the course of three days, bringing in tens of thousands of fans and giving the NFL plenty to think about regarding future locations of its spring ritual.

The draft was hosted in Chicago for the first time in a half-century after New York’s Radio City Music Hall, host of the NFL Draft for the past nine years, was booked for the NFL’s preferred dates of the draft.

No problems occurred and there were zero arrests over the three days according to Chicago Police Deputy Chief Steve Georgas, who oversaw police operations for Draft Town.

“There’s been absolutely no problems at all,” said Sgt. Jim Vanvranken at the Draft Town police command center. “And we’re not anticipating anything tonight.”

Roberto Gray, an event security staff member at Draft Town with Monterrey Security, a private sports security contracted with the NFL for the event, said there were over 400 team members from Monterrey present within Draft Town. Gray said there had not been any incidents on his watch, nor had his supervisors communicated any concerns.

“We’re walking around deep,” Gray said. “And if we see something wrong, we’re going to stop it.”

Amidst the confidence of police and security was concern among some attendees.

“We were actually surprised at how unsecure it felt coming in,” said Sonja Rathsack, a teacher from Phoenix, Arizona. “When you go through security, it’s a 16-year-old kid checking your bag. So you’re like ‘oh, I’m not sure they’re checking so well coming through.’“

That sentiment was not universal.

“I was here for the Obama election rally in 2008, and this security today was way better,” she said.

Minor glitches occurred Thursday night when only 10 of the 20 attending players who attended the draft made their way to Draft Town’s stage for interviews in front of the crowd. Dante Fowler Jr. was the first attending to be selected (No. 3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars), but did not make it to Draft Town until 8:50 p.m.

Efforts made to contact the NFL about the delay in player’s arrivals to Draft Town were unsuccessful.

While crowds dissipated on the subsequent days after Thursday’s first round, tens of thousands of people attended the event each day of festivities. Draft Town’s concourse remained busy and streaming with patrons on all three days.

On Saturday, draft events were entirely outside, with picks in rounds four through seven announced from team facilities and at Selection Square. Temperatures were significantly warmer than those on Thursday and Friday.

Chicagoan Carol Kennedy said she hopes the event will return in 2016.

“I think it’s great and it should be here every year because it’s not just for adults, it’s for kids,” she said. “There are families from all over the place, all over.”

Journalist Barry Wilner, co-author of “On The Clock: The Story of the NFL Draft,” said he wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL stretched the draft to four days in the future.

“The NFL wants the draft to become a traveling road show, and Chicago was a good start for the fans, especially those looking more for entertainment than information,” Wilner said. “I am sure Chicago will bid to host it again, and will get lots of competition from other cities, particularly Los Angeles and the Dallas area.”

The NFL did not immediately respond to inquiries regarding the future sites of the draft.

Taylor Hall and Hannah Beery contributed to this report.