CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - When the NFL brought the draft to Chicago last year after more than a half century in New York City, even the league was pleasantly surprised with the result.
"When we saw the queue lines start to build just off of Michigan Avenue on that Thursday, we said 'We're on to something here," said Peter O'Reilly, NFL Senior Vice President of Events.
"We had great impact and tremendous benefit to our city," added Chicago Sports Commission Director Kara Bachman.
Bachman estimates Chicago saw $86 million dollars flow in to the city thanks to draft events. More than 200 thousand fans came through the free "Draft Town", with even more attending associated parties around the area. The NFL quickly realized it needed more space, leading to a major expansion for 2016.
"That's the goal; more space, more opportunities for fans to experience the free event," said O'Reilly.
This year, the area around Buckingham Fountain will host "Selection Square," where the picks are announced over the weekend. There will be new activities, including a Ferris Wheel adorned with team logos and colors. In all, the space will balloon by about 25 percent from approximately the area of 15 football fields, to more than 20.
O'Reilly said the NFL continues to be impressed with Chicago's ability to showcase the league, but that doesn't mean the city will get a three-peat in 2017.
"When other clubs around the league in other markets saw what Chicago did, it peaked their interest."