No Rocky statue, no visitors, during NFL Draft City demolition
Hundreds of hard hats dismantle mammoth NFL Draft stage while Art Museum remains in hiding and Rocky is off limits from his selfie fans.
After jamming the Ben Franklin Parkway for three days, thousands of National Football League draft fans departed, making way on Sunday for hundreds of workers in hard hats and lime-green safety vests to haul away trash, and deconstruct the blocks-long tent city and massive stage that temporarily blotted out the Art Museum and its iconic steps.
Even the selfie-magnet Rocky statue was temporarily fenced off from the public Sunday while 348 unionized Teamsters, stagehands and riggers put in a long day's journey into night dismantling what Chuck Ogle, co-owner of Tri-State Staging from Mullica Hill, said was "the biggest thing I've seen" in his 37 years of mounting Philly concerts and mega-events, including the Parkway's Made in America Festival.
"Made in America was on several stages along the Parkway, but this is off the charts," Ogle said, admiring the bustling beehive of workers disassembling the one mammoth main stage with VIP balconies on either side. "This is like eight stages in one. Forklifts running all over the place. Guys up there in the ceiling dropping down lights."
He smiled proudly. "The Teamsters, the stagehands, the riggers – every one of them is putting out. We came here on April 3. We lost a month of our lives here."
And it's not over yet. Ogle said it could take until May 12 to fully remove the stage.
Attendance at the NFL draft and NFL Draft Experience in Philadelphia drew nearly 250,000 fans over three days, surpassing pre-draft projections of 200,000, said Kamran Mumtaz, the NFL's director of communications.
The Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau projected that the event would have an $80 million economic impact on the city. A spokeswoman for the bureau said the total economic impact of the draft on Philadelphia would take time to calculate.
The NFL draft's impact on Philadelphians who live in the Parkway neighborhoods got mixed reviews.
Rachel Kember, who moved to the Parkway from England five years ago, said the long days leading up to the draft were more troublesome than the event itself. "It would have been less of a hassle if you didn't have to really dig and search to find out where can we park, where can we walk," she said, walking her beagle/poodle/spaniel mix Willow, 5, while her husband, Ross Wetjen, walked Sophie, his 4-year-old golden retriever.
"It's been a real burden," said Fairmount resident Maia Cucchiara while her daughter Eliza, 10, nodded vigorously. "The helicopters overhead were unbelievable. Remember the opening credits on M*A*S*H? Like that. Drunk people walking around. This was exponentially worse than Made in America, which was on a holiday weekend, so you could get out of town. This thing went on for a couple of regular weeks when we were just trying to run our normal lives."
Charina Axelrod, who lives on the Parkway and was working with cognitive trainer Larry Fine to persuade her anxious service dog, Oliver, a Newfoundland mix, to get into her car calmly, said she liked seeing lively crowds out on the normally placid Parkway.
Trish Henrich from Fairmount, who was walking Luke Skywalker, 7, her gentle giant Great Dane, on their way to bathe him in a local pet shop, said she was fine with the NFL draft on the Parkway "as long as it financially benefits Philadelphia. If it helped the city, I'm all for it."
Staff writer Stephanie Farr contributed to this article.