NFL Draft in Eagan?

Popular event could be staged in new facility

Photo by Andy Rogers
Work is progressing at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan.

As field and steel work progresses on the Minnesota Vikings’ new home in northeastern Eagan, officials are working on filling up its calendar.

The Minnesota Vikings applied to host the NFL Draft in 2022 or 2023 at both Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center being built in Eagan and at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

“It’s an opportunity for our market to have a unique Minnesota event,” Vikings executive vice president Lester Bagley said in a phone interview. “It’s a widely televised event. It’s an opportunity to enhance the brand of our market and the Vikings and to generate some economic impact with all the people involved.”

It’s still early in the process. Bagley said the Vikings submitted an expression of interest 13 months ago.

There are still many details between how the NFL runs its drafts and how the Vikings would stage such an event between Eagan and Minneapolis.

“(The NFL) is still figuring out where to have it next year,” Bagley said. “They haven’t identified a process or time line nor have they identified any programing opportunities.”

He recognized any staging of the NFL Draft would happen five years from now, but “it will come fast.”

“We have more work to do,” Bagley said. “We recognize we need more details and direction from the NFL.”

He said once they do, they’ll be able to “roll up their sleeves” to showcase the hospitality and infrastructure in Eagan and Twin Cities.

The new headquarters will include outdoor and indoor practice fields, a 6,000-seat stadium, team meeting rooms and auditorium, and administrative offices.

The NFL Draft is a three-day event from Thursday to Saturday held in the spring. The NFL reported 250,000 in total attendance of the NFL Draft last month in Philadelphia, which was aided by the fact that it was held on a stage outside.

“They had 100,000 people there the first day and 250,000 total throughout the weekend,” Bagley said.

NFL teams take turns selecting college football players over seven rounds during the annual event. It’s broadcast on ESPN and NFL Network and bantered about by millions of college and NFL football fans for months.

It was held in New York City from 1965 to 2014 before it moved to Chicago in 2015 and 2016.

Last month it was held in Philadelphia.

In the past, the NFL Draft was usually held in a theater.

When it was in New York, the NFL Draft was held in Radio City Music Hall and the Theater at Madison Square Garden in the 1990s and 2000s.

While in Chicago, the event took over the Auditorium Theater and Grant Park.

In Philadelphia it held on an outdoor stage in Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Prior to 1965, the NFL Draft was held in various locations in Chicago; New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee; and Los Angeles.

The Twin Cities have never been home to an NFL Draft, but the Nicollet Hotel was home for the first-ever American Football League Draft in 1959.

The AFL was active from 1960-69 before it merged with the NFL. It was the original home for teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.

The NHL Entry Draft was held in 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The NFL Draft isn’t the only thing expected to come to the new headquarters.

Earlier this year, the Vikings officials said they intend to play host to high school sporting events, particularity as a neutral site for playoff games, at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Stadium, beginning in 2018.

The 40-acre Vikings campus is on a 200-acre parcel of land that had been home to the old headquarters of Northwest Airlines.

The long-term plan is to transform the remaining acres into a mixed-use area with residential, retail, hotels and restaurant spaces.

The campus will also include Twin Cities Orthopedics medical office building and sports medicine training center.