The NFL draft is returning to the Windy City for the second straight year after a long run at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The location has not been finalized, but it will be near Grant Park and run from April 28-30.
"We're thrilled. They have earned it," Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday at the NFL owners' meetings. "The success that we've had last year set a new bar for the draft."
The league also announced plans to create a selection process for future draft sites. There was no commitment made to Chicago beyond 2016, but the NFL says it will be considered for future drafts.
"The NFL draft is world-class event, and I'm proud they picked a world-class city like the city of Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
The league was believed to be considering Los Angeles, but this year's draft in Chicago and "Draft Town" - an NFL-themed party at Grant Park - drew huge crowds, impressing the league. Chicago also is centrally located for fans of several teams, adding to the attraction for the NFL.
It’s very exciting news for the city of Chicago, and for one local boy who hopes to have a seat on the inside.
"I just hope I can play well enough to get invited and be able to bring some family down there, that would be an awesome experience," said potential draft pick Josh Ferguson, who’s a running back from the University of Illinois.
The Naperville native is about to start his senior year in Champaign, and he's hoping to skip the party outside of Draft Town next year in order to be invited in.
“It’s a positive thing, it's a night where people's lives are changed and I think that's uplifting for any type of city, and I think for Chicago it’s a very good thing,” Ferguson said.
But next year, Mayor Emanuel wants the draft to grow even bigger, drawing more crowds and adding even more events for kids.
As for Ferguson, he has his own hopes for how the draft will be different come 2016.
“To grow up here, to go to school here, to go to college here and to represent my home state, and if that opportunity does arise, to get drafted out of my home, I think that would be an experience that's second to none,” Ferguson said.
According to the league, more than 200,000 fans participated in draft-related events this year in Chicago. A study commissioned by the Chicago Sports Commission found the draft generated an economic impact of $81.6 million.
"It's about the national event," said Peter O'Reilly, the NFL's senior vice president of events. "It wasn't, as we know, just Chicagoans coming here to Grant Park. There were people, every team was represented here. Again, the entire country started to converge on the heartland of football here."
The 2015 draft was held in the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. But O'Reilly said they are considering all options.
The draft also was held in Chicago in 1938, 1942-44, 1951, and 1962-64.