Nashville, Tennessee, has emerged as the leading contender to host the 2019 NFL draft, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday.
A decision is expected to be announced during the league’s spring meeting May 22-23 in Atlanta.
In the unlikely event that Nashville were to lose out on the 2019 draft, the city would be in prime position to then host the 2020 event, sources told ESPN.
The other cities being considered as the potential host sites for the 2019 and 2020 NFL drafts are Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City and a combination bid from Cleveland/Canton, Ohio.
Butch Spyridon, the president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., told the Tennessean in February that the city’s pitch included multiple venues — including the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry House, Ascend Amphitheater and Music City Center convention hall.
The city’s pitch would also incorporate concerts into the draft weekend.
Officials were told the NFL wants the draft to take on the personality of the host city, and that’s when Nashville’s representatives felt their chances improve dramatically because of the city’s music-centric, party vibe.
On Wednesday, Spyridon said Nashville’s slight preference was to host the 2020 draft because of minor logistics, but they have the flexibility and strong desire to host the 2019 draft if that was the NFL’s choice.
Spyridon said Wednesday he was “cautiously optimistic” that Nashville would land the draft, putting odds at much better than 50-50.
“If we can embrace it Nashville-style, we got a shot,” Spyridon said. “It’d be a big party. You’d know you were in Nashville. I promise they wouldn’t be disappointed.”
The first televised draft was broadcast by ESPN in 1980, but it wasn’t a fan event until 1995, when the league moved it to Madison Square Garden in New York.
After a nine-year run at Radio City Music Hall in New York ended in 2014, the draft has been held in Chicago (2015-16), Philadelphia (2017) and Arlington, Texas (2018).
This year’s event at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, was the first to be held inside an NFL stadium.
ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe contributed to this report.