Upon hearing the NFL was going to hold the entirety of this year's draft outdoors on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, my initial thought was something along the lines of "what a disaster."
I attended the Live 8 concert and the Fourth of July event with Elton John on the Parkway in 2005. I was still in college at the time, so I didn't necessarily mind the massive inconvenience of events there. Plus, these were concerts, so there was constantly something happening. But now, in my mid-30s, the thought of watching football players' names being announced sporadically in such a venue was in no way appealing. And while I expected Ravens fans to make the short trip, my gut was they would probably come away from it saying, "I wish I would have just watched it on TV."
But, yeah, I was wrong.
"All in all, the draft was a fantastic experience, even if it was in Philly," Jesse Mayer from Annapolis, Md., said. "The city did an outstanding job because of their facilities and how they were able to integrate the draft experience into it."
Richard Singleton from Columbia, Md., enjoyed it so much on the first night he went back again.
"It was outstanding on Thursday night and even better on Saturday," he said.
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(who prefers to be known as Lindsey OK) is a Ravens fan from Baltimore who decided to go more out of fear of regret.
"The only reason I went was because it was so close, and I feel like if I didn't go, I'd feel like, ‘Man, I should have gone,'" she said.
"... If you're like a real football fan who wants to go to the draft and wants to see it, I really enjoyed it and I would go again," she said.
So I was wrong. The Philadelphia draft was a smash hit. And because I'm big enough to admit I was wrong, now I want it in Baltimore. Immediately. Let's make it happen.
Two-thirds of NFL teams have reportedly expressed interest in hosting the draft in the future. In a statement to PressBox, the Ravens said, "We would be interested in helping present any event that boosts the local economy."
In fact, considering how successful the league's public party was on the Parkway, all teams should be interested.
And the league should prioritize putting the draft in cities that won't be in the mix to receive a Super Bowl, cities like Baltimore (and begrudgingly Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, etc.). Dallas is reportedly the front-runner to land it in 2018.
Considering how much they enjoyed the event in Philadelphia, it would make sense Ravens fans would be amped for a potential draft in Charm City. There's just the pesky question of where such an event could be held.
"I would totally go," Lindsey OK said. "I don't know if Baltimore can necessarily handle that. They can't have it at the Harbor. Maybe if they did it in Baltimore County -- more like Towson or the Fairgrounds. Maybe even Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. I think it could work out. I would definitely go again."
Mayer wasn't so sure Baltimore could pull it off.
"Do I think Baltimore could host an exceptional draft outdoors at that level? I don't think we have the facilities for that downtown," Mayer said. "I think that right now, we really lack that ‘wow' factor that Philly had by doing it on the "Rocky steps" at the Art Museum.
"It was perfectly composed and every detail was taken care of. Outside of the Convention Center -- or setting up in the parking lots near the stadiums -- there isn't really a place that I can see the draft happening. And after experiencing it outdoors, I truly feel like it needs to stay outdoors."
But perhaps there could be a solution in Baltimore.
"I would love to see us host it in Baltimore," Singleton said. "Outside of Fort McHenry would be a great place if it was allowed."
Bingo. That's perfect. While Fort McHenry couldn't quite handle the crowds the draft brought to the Parkway (250,000 throughout three days, according to the NFL), the aesthetics would be perfect for the draft, as a television show and the rest of the city could be utilized for the festival aspects of the event that fans enjoyed in Philadelphia.
To recap, I was terribly wrong, but now I'm definitely right. Fort McHenry should host the 2019 NFL Draft. Let's make it happen.
Issue 233: May 2017