INDIANAPOLIS - A new NFL Combine Experience is allowing fans to get more involved than ever before during the yearly football event in the Circle City.
Hundreds of fans are expected to take part in the interactive event at the Indiana Convention Center between Thursday and Sunday. The interactive event allows fans to participate in the same drills the NFL prospects are put through at Lucas Oil Stadium, along with listen to interviews from NFL prospects, coaches and general managers. For the first time ever, fans can watch the prospects perform the bench press, which until this year had been closed to the public.
Leaders with Visit Indy said the NFL Scouting Combine weekend has always made a significant impact on the local economy and with fans able to get more involved the impact will be even greater.
"The component happening at Lucas Oil Stadium, the X's and O's of these college athletes trying out, if you will, generates about eight million dollars of economic impact," said Chris Gahl, senior vice president at Visit Indy. "We believe, very conservatively, that what will happen in the next four days here inside the Indiana Convention Center, as part of the experience, will generate an additional two million."
According to Gahl, the past month Visit Indy had targeted four other NFL cities - Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati - with the hope of attracting fans to Indianapolis for the weekend.
"We believe we'll see a healthy three to four percent in hotel occupancy tied directly to this event and the fact that regional markets can drive in and experience the combine," said Gahl.
When the gates opened Thursday afternoon, fans had already started piling in.
Christian Nuccio traveled from Baltimore with his brother and friends to take part in the new Combine attraction.
"It's an experience that you probably wouldn't be able to see anywhere else," he said. "We're only up here for a couple of days, so I'll probably never see anything like the combine again in my life."
Gahl said if the interactive event goes as planned, his office will target more places next year by looking at other NFL cities in the Midwest and cities with direct flights to Indianapolis.
The Combine's popularity has risen dramatically in recent years. It was first shown on television in 2004, and more recently other cities have considered vying to host the four-day event.
With more fan involvement, Gahl said it should be harder now than ever for someone to swipe the event away.
"We don't sit idle, especially for an event like the NFL Scouting Combine," he said. "We know other major cities would love to host it. We feel confident it's the best city in the nation, Indianapolis to host it. Adding a component like this fan experience helps solidify our staying power as a city of hosting this event."
The NFL and Indianapolis have agreed to keep the Combine where it is until at least 2020.
The Combine Experience is open at these times:
- Thursday, March 2: 12PM - 8PM
- Friday, March 3: 12PM - 8PM
- Saturday, March 4: 10AM - 8PM
- Sunday, March 5: 10AM - 5PM