The inaugural Draft Town fan festival received rave reviews from surveyed fans -- 17 out of 26 people surveyed rated the event a 10-out-of-10. (Scott Guthrie/Medill).

Survey says: Chicago draft experience ‘what the city needs’

By Tim Penman

Doug Barnett apparently felt constrained trying to rate the Chicago draft experience from 1 to 10.

“For me, it’s a 12,” Doug Barnett, 54, said of his hometown’s first crack hosting the NFL Draft again after New York City held the previous 50. “It should never be done anywhere else. We have a clean city, and New York sucks.”

Barnett was one of more than 25 people randomly surveyed Saturday at Draft Town by the Medill News Service, although not the only one who tried (unsuccessfully) to go over 10. Those questioned on the final day of the draft unanimously enjoyed it.

The average score: 9.3.

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Ben Ferguson, 32, of Cincinnati

“There’s a lot of excitement here,” said Bengals fan Ben Ferguson, 32, a transplanted Cincinnatian now living in Chicago. “The NFL has kind of taken the park over. You walk by and you see Mel Kiper live doing a report, then you walk by Selection Square and you see people coming out and making the picks.

“It’s just a unique experience because it’s been in New York for so long.”

The first NFL Draft in Chicago since December 1963 was the first to try a two-site presentation. The first two days, the picks were actually made and announced at the Auditorium Theatre.

Some of those surveyed especially enjoyed the setting for the final rounds of the draft Saturday, being outdoors and seeing the selections either introduced or shown on giant screens. Some also also enjoyed seeing ESPN and NFL Network broadcast live.

Temperatures reaching the 60s on Day 3 didn’t hurt, either, after dipping into the 40s the first two nights.

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Corey England, 27, of Gainesville, Florida

“It was pretty cold the first two days,” said Corey England, 27, a hotel kitchen supervisor who traveled from Gainesville, Florida. “But other than that, just being able to watch the draft with fellow Jags fans, then also having former Jags players come to the tent to sign autographs (was great).”

And the price was right.

“I usually don’t come out to events in Chicago based on the crowds,” said Bears fan Kelly Lewis, 49. “Some of them got too big, they cost too much, and so to have a free event that isn’t fenced off with security is great. This is what the city needs.

“It’s all about coming together as sports fans.”