When fans tune into the 2018 NFL Draft later this month, they may notice some major changes from previous drafts. This year’s draft will be staged at AT&T Stadium—home of the Dallas Cowboys—marking the first time that the event will be held in an NFL facility.
Over its long history, the NFL Draft has bounced around from location to location, including large hotels and various theatres and venues. A long line of New York City venues set the stage for the 1965-2014 drafts, with Radio City Music Hall acting as the event’s setting from 2006-2014. The draft has moved around more in recent years, however, with Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre assuming hosting duties in 2015 and 2016 before the Philadelphia Museum of Art took a turn in 2017.
AT&T Stadium will now take over as the host. While the venue has held plenty of major events since its opening in 2009, it will have to go through some unique preparations as it readies to host the NFL’s signature offseason event.
The plans for the NFL Draft calls for an extensive use of AT&T Stadium and the surrounding area. According to details released by the Cowboys last month, the draft theatre will be placed on the playing field. This area will include an Inner Circle where select fans of the NFL’s 32 teams will be able to view the draft, as well as the selection square, the area that includes tables for representatives from every team.
Outside of AT&T Stadium, plazas will be used to create the NFL Draft Experience, a fan fest-type atmosphere that includes viewing space, interactive activities, and more. The fan experience area will have hours during all three days of the draft, including 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM on April 26 and 27, as well as 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM on April 28.
It is expected that 20,000 tickets for AT&T Stadium will be available for each day of the draft, with free admission granted via lottery. With the events on the outdoor plazas factored in, the festivities are expected to be attended by a record crowd for the draft. The attendance question should be answered once the draft has passed, but the more intriguing question might be whether this year’s draft leads to a template that other facilities can follow.
As a covered venue with a large capacity, AT&T Stadium is seemingly among a select group of NFL facilities that could accommodate a draft, but the league’s willingness to move the draft around suggests that more creative plans are in the offing. While it remains to be seen whether another stadium lands the draft down the road, the NFL is expected to announce plans for future drafts in May.
The 2018 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 26 and run through Saturday, April 28.
Renderings courtesy NFL.