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200,000 fans expected in Philly for NFL draft

The NFL draft is expected to draw 200,000 football fans to Philadelphia, organizers said Tuesday.

Philadelphia is expecting 200,000 football fans to turn out in April for the first outdoor NFL draft, with festivities along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The draft will take place from April 27 to 29 in a large outdoor theater constructed in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A limited number of tickets will be made available for the 3,000-seat theater in coming weeks. A lottery opens for those tickets next week on the NFL draft website.

But if you're not a ticket holder, there will be standing room on the Parkway, which will be transformed into a festival the size of 25 football fields, open free to the public before and during the draft, with huge LED screens to broadcast the action.

Activities at the festival, which will be open from noon to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, include a 100-yard zip line, exhibits featuring Eagles memorabilia, the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and a chance to visit the draft set and replica NFL locker rooms.

At an announcement in the Great Stair Hall of the Art Museum on Tuesday, Mayor Kenney said the city was eager and ready to host thousands of football fans.

"It's no secret Philadelphians are passionate about their sports teams, particularly the Eagles," Kenney said. "In 2015 it was the pope. In 2016 the DNC, and now, in 2017, it's the NFL draft."

Kenney also went off-script to defend Philadelphia sports fans: "I don't care what anybody else in the rest of the country says about our fans. We are passionate. We are loyal. We are knowledgeable, and we care about our team and its players."

Museums along the Parkway will remain open all three days of the draft, organizers said. Kenney compared the size and security scope of the event to the annual Fourth of July festival.

Philadelphia hosted the first NFL draft in a conference room at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in 1936. It hosted it again in 1949 and 1950, 1953 and 1954, 1956, and from 1957 to 1961.

This event will cost between $20 million and $25 million, the bulk paid by the NFL. The city is raising $5 million in private funds and will spend $500,000 on city services.

The last draft, in Chicago, brought in 200,000 fans over three days, about half of whom were from outside of the city, organizers said.

Ron Jaworski, former Eagles quarterback and co-chair of the draft committee, said legacy projects are also planned that could involve donations or money to rebuild city sports fields.

"This is going to be a party of epic proportions," Jaworski said. "This is going to be in our sports history, an unbelievable three days in Philadelphia."