Draft Town back in Chicago for year two
At the NFL Draft, every fan believes that maybe – just maybe – this could be their team’s year.
Thanks to Draft Town, now fans can get autographs from Hall of Famers, eat like a veteran tailgate champ and show their stuff in combine drills just like the league’s next batch of prospects.
To be honest, you probably won’t be an uncovered gem like Tom Brady was back in 2000 when the New England Patriots drafted him 199th overall. But such dreams and fantasies are encouraged as Draft Town returns to Grant Park and Congress Plaza for a second year, coinciding with the league’s annual draft celebration, which is April 28-30.
The fun begins at Draft Town several hours before the Tennessee Titans make their selection in prime time on April 28 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.
Starting at noon, 900,000 square feet of Draft Town opens and a free three-day frenzy of football begins. Organizers say the festivities will take up more than 20 football fields of space.
Among the highlights:
- New this year is a Ferris wheel near Van Buren Street where you can see all the action from above
- Free football clinics every half hour (starting at 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday) at the Play 60 field
- Combine-style workouts where fans can record vertical jump measurements, 40-yard dash times and a down-and-out pass route and (hopefully) reception to catch some eyes
- Try a field goal on NFL uprights (it’s not as easy as those guys make it look)
- In the Play 60 zone, kids can try their snapping, passing and kicking skills, as well as getting geared up like a real pro in full uniform
- An auction, replica locker rooms, a museum and a virtual reality simulation lets you get in the game (watch out for J.J. Watt)
- Wilson will be on hand demonstrating how game balls are produced (insert your own Deflategate joke here)
- Local fans can press the flesh with Bears legend Dick Butkus, who will be among the legends signing at the autograph stage, along with iconic Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly
- The NFL Draft Tavern presented by Bud Light is there, and you get one guess what’s on tap
- NFL Network and ESPN will have sets for live broadcasts, so if your combine performance doesn’t work out, maybe this is your chance to be a TV star
- Of course, it’s Chicago, so there’s food: A tailgate party will show off some of the city’s best
On Saturday, the draft itself moves to Draft Town for rounds 4 through 7, as selections will be made at Selection Square, which is being moved away from Michigan Avenue and closer to the lakefront near Buckingham Fountain.
The draft is like the Super Bowl for some: The weekend where even fans of the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns can indulge visions of Super Bowl glory.
Fittingly, the actual Vince Lombardi Trophy will be on hand for photo opportunities.
It might be the last time you see the trophy until your team wins it next winter.
Go ahead, dream away.