CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland and Canton’s bid to host the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft took a major step forward Thursday.
The bid was named 1 of 5 finalists to host what has become one of the league’s premiere events.
The Browns in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission announced their bid in August to host the draft.
“Being selected as one of five finalists to host either the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft in Cleveland and Canton is a great testament to our fans and the immense passion for football in Northeast Ohio,” Browns executive vice president/chief financial officer Dave Jenkins said in a statement. “Dee, Jimmy and our entire team are excited to move forward in the bid process with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, and hopefully, create another great opportunity to showcase our region throughout the NFL and the country.”
Tennessee, Las Vegas, Denver and Kansas City are the other finalists.
Final bids are to be submitted to the league office by early April and the league is expected to announce the winners at the league’s spring meetings in May.
Since leaving Radio City Music Hall and New York City 3 years ago, the NFL has taken one of its biggest events of the year on the road. Chicago hosted in the draft 2015 and 2016 with Philadelphia hosting in 2017.
The 2018 draft will be held in Dallas this April.
“I think they each bring their own twist to it, their own flavor and I think that’s what’s made it so special for us in the couple years we’ve been moving it around,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a visit to the Browns’ facility last August. “Cleveland obviously, northeast Ohio, Canton Ohio, it’s the birthplace of football. I believe the passion here would be extraordinary so I think it would be a great event.”
The Hall of Fame in Canton is in the midst of a massive transformation, with the first piece already completed – Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Formerly known as Fawcett Stadium, the facility has been completely rebuilt into a 23,000 seat state-of-the-art venue and re-named in Benson’s honor after the Saints’ owner donated $11 million towards the project.
The neighborhood immediately surrounding the Hall of Fame is now gone and is being replaced by a 5-star hotel and several other attractions as part of a nearly $700 million project called Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village which is scheduled for completion by 2020 – just in time for the NFL’s centennial celebration.
“With the support of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Cleveland and Canton are the ideal sites for the NFL Draft due to our region’s unmatched passion and respect for football, as well as our commitment to its future and the next generation of Hall of Fame players,” Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said in a statement announcing their initial bid last August.
The timetable for the entire project, which is expected to be completed by 2020, was set in motion with the idea of luring the NFL Draft and the subtext of league entrants beginning their career in Canton with the goal to end it in Canton.