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Brady: NFL draft will be held in Philly in April

Bob Brady says the 2017 NFL draft will be held in Philadelphia. The city says: Not so fast. The U.S. representative said in an interview Thursday that the draft, held in Chicago the last two years, would take place in Philadelphia in April.

Bob Brady says the 2017 NFL draft will be held in Philadelphia.

The city says: Not so fast.

The U.S. representative said in an interview Thursday that the draft, held in Chicago the last two years, would take place in Philadelphia in April.

Although the city did not confirm that a deal had been made, Brady, a Democrat from Philadelphia, said that Mayor Kenney called him Thursday to tell him that the city had agreed to host the draft and to commit $5 million to pull off the three-day event.

Brady said the mayor expressed concern about the financial commitment at first but changed his mind after he was convinced that the city could raise the money and not put the burden on taxpayers.

Brady said the Building Trades Union would put in more than $1 million toward building a temporary stage and arena on the Ben Franklin Parkway with seating for about 3,000 spectators.

"The NFL wanted to come here, which is a good start," Brady said in a phone interview. "I talked with the mayor. The mayor had a concern about money because he didn't want to put the city in debt, rightfully so, so we had to go around and see if we could get some people that would help finance it, and I think we were kind of successful.

"We've been dealing with this for the past couple of weeks, maybe three weeks, and [Kenney] just called me this afternoon and told me that we got the NFL, that the city is going to do it and he feels comfortable that the people who said they were going to help raise the money are going to do it."

Brian McCarthy, vice president of communications for the NFL, wrote in an email Thursday night that "we have no agreements with any cities to host future drafts."

Next year's NFL draft would be the first in the NFL in 56 years, and Brady said the economic impact on the city would be huge.

"I think it's going to be great for the city," Brady said. "We are going to showcase the city for the whole country again, and we'll have thousands of visitors coming in here and all the players, all the sports teams, and all the coaches and managers will all be around. It will be great. It's a big deal. It's astounding. Just like with the [Democratic] convention, all the hotels will be booked, all the restaurants will be filled, for a three-day event."

Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt wrote in an email Thursday that the city had not signed a deal with the NFL.

"I can't speak for the congressman, but I can tell you that the city has definitely not been awarded the draft," Hitt wrote.

Still, Brady sounded firm and provided details about plans to build the event arena.

"They are going to do it out in the open on the Parkway for three days. It's a three-day draft," Brady said. "They are going to build a stage, and I'm sure they are going to put up some type of enclosure in case it rains. But that's what the NFL wanted. They wanted to do it right on the Parkway, I think, I don't know but I would imagine, with the Art Museum as the backdrop. They wanted to come here and do that so we just had to guarantee them money."

Until the draft moved to Chicago from New York two years ago, Eagles fans often traveled to the Big Apple to watch the draft and to express their pleasure or displeasure with whomever the Eagles picked with their first-round selections.

It is ironic that Philadelphia is poised to win the draft event. For the first time in many years, the Eagles do not have a first-round pick. They traded their top pick in the 2017 draft as they moved up to the No. 2 pick this year. They used that pick to choose Carson Wentz, their quarterback of the future.

Brady said Kenney was especially concerned about costs after taxpayers got stuck with a roughly $8 million bill from the pope's visit to Philadelphia last year.

In the months leading up to the September 2015 visit, then-Mayor Michael Nutter said the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families would cover all the city's costs. Nutter said later that costs associated with event preparations and cleanup would fall on the city.

Brady said Kenney did not want to put the city in debt for the NFL festivities.

"The mayor was doing the right thing here. He was very conscientiously worried about the city being on the hook for the money because when he took office, there was no money left," Brady said. "He had to pay back money for the pope and some other things."

Brady said that Larry Needle, of the Philadelphia Sports Congress, and Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, were involved in talks with the mayor to bring the NFL draft to Philadelphia.

He said Needle and Coker Graham had promised to help raise money.

Needle and Coker Graham did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

If the draft is held in Philadelphia, it would not be a big surprise.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in Chicago for April's draft, said April 27 that he was aware Philadelphia was one of the teams bidding to host the event.

"I know they're interested in it," Goodell said at the time. "And we're interested in Philadelphia, but among the other cities. We've got a lot of interest. We want to sit down after we're done and see what the best decision is for the NFL."

Traditional events surrounding the draft could take place on the Parkway, but the first and second rounds of the draft always have taken place indoors.

This year's draft was held April 28, 29, and 30 in the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University in Chicago.The free outdoor festivities accompanying the selections took place in Grant Park and drew thousands of people.

Draft Town, as the 900,000-square-foot site was called, included Selection Square, where the draft picks on the third day were introduced; flag football games and clinics; field goal kicking; vertical jumps; 40-yard dashes; passing drills;d an obstacle course; interactive games; historical NFL memorabilia; a replica NFL locker room; and free autographs from current and former players.

The 2015 draft also was held in Chicago, the first time the event had taken place outside New York City in more than 50 years. WNAX 570 AM radio in Chicago reported last May that more than 200,000 fans from across the country participated in the 2015 draft festivities in Chicago.

Philadelphia last hosted the NFL draft in 1960 at the Warwick Hotel in Center City.

Staff writers Les Bowen and Marc Narducci contributed to this article.