Nashville named host city for 2019 NFL draft

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Prepare for a big party full of music and honky-tonks next April. Nashville has officially been awarded the 2019 NFL draft.

The other cities considered for the 2019 and 2020 NFL drafts included Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City and a combination bid from Cleveland/Canton, Ohio.

It's a big win for the Tennessee Titans, their controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, and the city of Nashville that the NFL saw enough in a small-market team to put them on a big NFL stage. Reps from Nashville and the Titans promised they won't disappoint.

"Congrats to Amy and obviously the city of Nashville. You're now on the clock. So you're in trouble," commissioner Roger Goodell joked while making the announcement Wednesday at the spring league meetings.

"Gladly," Strunk added.

Goodell continued: "We're thrilled. We look forward to being in Nashville."

Nashville was already one of the big favorites throughout the process which was officially narrowed down to five candidates in February, but the NFL loved what they saw at the Titans' April 4 uniform unveiling which had 20,000 fans dancing and partying on First and Broadway Street on a 40-degree Wednesday night. Butch Spyridon, the president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, then sent a text to NFL senior vice president of events Peter O'Reilly: "20K, not bad for a fashion show."

There were NFL reps at the uniform unveiling, and they passed info to decision-makers about the event's success. One of those NFL reps told ESPN that the league wants the Nashville event to be the standard for future uniform unveilings. The uniform unveiling positively impacted Nashville's chances to host the draft. A win-win for all involved.

"It'll be like the Titans' uniform unveiling on steroids," Spyridon said. "We're the perfect location for the draft. The brand, the destination, the convenience of our downtown and location of the stadium, the star power that can help promote it and be part of the entertainment."

Spyridon told ESPN previously that the city encouraged the NFL to use the Ascend Amphitheater for the draft theater, Nissan Stadium (home of the Tennessee Titans) and its parking lots for the fan experience, and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for the team war room/desk. He also presented the Music City Center convention hall as a potential option.

Spyridon suggested that Broadway and First Avenue -- which is full of honky-tonks and includes nearby Bridgestone Arena -- be a big part of draft weekend as well.

Ultimately, the NFL will create its own event based on the potential locations provided.

The NFL doesn't want a buttoned-up draft. Throughout the process, the league has repeatedly said it wants the host city to "reinvent the wheel" -- to make it a fun event that takes on the personality of its host city. Nashville/Titans reps' ears perked up at that, because they feel it drastically increases the city's chances with its party vibe.

The city could land A-list performers from multiple music genres, especially country stars.

"At one point, the NFL folks said music never really worked very well with our audience. I looked at them and said, 'You've never done it in Nashville,'" Spyridon said. "We're not going to do it without music. We're going to do it big. We could do it in a real fun, cool way."

Nashville has set four goals for the draft:

• Build an event that locals want to attend and will make them proud.
• Get fans from nearby markets to attend. Atlanta, Indianapolis and Cincinnati are all within a four-hour drive. (Reportedly 63 percent of the 250,000-plus fans in Philly for the 2017 draft were from out of town.)
• Convince top draft prospects to come to Nashville for draft weekend. (One of the NFL's big focus points is increasing the attendance of big-name prospects.)
• Top 400,000 in online app registrations for fans wanting to be in the actual draft theater. (Dallas had 400,000 fans register to attend the draft.)

The first televised draft was broadcast by ESPN in 1980, but it wasn't a fan event until 1995, when the league moved it to Madison Square Garden in New York.

After a nine-year run at Radio City Music Hall in New York ended in 2014, the draft has been held in Chicago (2015-16), Philadelphia (2017) and Arlington, Texas (2018).

This year's event at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, was the first to be held inside an NFL stadium.