CLEVELAND (WJW) — The main stage is taking shape and the excitement is building, as Cleveland prepares to host the 2021 NFL Draft in less than three weeks. People are already flocking downtown as we learn more about attractions, concerts, and other events coming to Northeast Ohio.
Alfonso Nazario and his family stopped by Mall C downtown to check out the 32 helmets on display, leading up to the NFL Draft in Cleveland April 29th through May 1st.
“A buddy of mine always goes to the games, you know, he’s on the list right now, actually he’s trying to go down there with the Browns contingent, so yeah, it’s pretty exciting,” said Nazario.
“I think the NFL’s done a really good job as far as dealing with COVID and finishing the season, now people are getting the vaccine and hopefully it’s going in the right direction…hopefully it’ll turn out good for Cleveland,” said Chad Payne of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Payne, in town on business, says he attended the 2019 draft experience in Nashville.
“I went out there and watched it, it was crazy, you couldn’t really get close to it to see it,” he said.
“We are expecting tens and tens of thousands of people to be descending on downtown, all in an outdoor and safe way,” said David Gilbert, President and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.
Gilbert says the Draft in Cleveland will be scaled down from 2019, but bigger than last year’s virtual draft in Las Vegas. It will follow COVID protocols, but there will still be plenty of safe activities, including the free, interactive NFL Draft Experience.
“Tickets right now are nearly sold out, which is fantastic … still some left for Saturday, but we would also encourage people to keep checking back because as some things change, shift, more tickets may become available,” said Gilbert.
The main stage, under construction along the lakefront grows more impressive by the day.
“These are 90-foot high trusses, this isn’t just a little stage,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert says the revenue from hosting the draft will be even more significant, even if it’s a smaller than expected … as local businesses try to bounce back from the pandemic.
“They’re magnified because they mean the lifeline between, in some cases, hanging on and not hanging on,” he said.
“At least it wasn’t last year, it wouldn’t have been nothing,” said Nazario.
Dave Gilbert says in the coming weeks, we will learn more about headlining acts for concerts and other events that will take place around Cleveland, including a fireworks display.
The NFL has established capacity limits for various events, but they are not announcing it yet, because things could change, depending on the pandemic.
Masks will be required at all events, and areas near the draft theatre in the evenings will only allow people inside who have been vaccinated.