INDIANAPOLIS — For the last 35 years, the road to the NFL has run through Indy. That history continues Tuesday as the NFL Combine returns to Indianapolis – though events won’t open to the public until Thursday.
The future of the annual event, whose location has been held synonymously with Indianapolis for more than three decades, has recently been called into question.
The NFL Combine, whose player evaluations and medical screenings begins Tuesday, has stiff competition from cities like Los Angeles and Dallas; both have made bids on hosting the pro football tryout event next year in 2023 and 2024 beyond.
The NFL says the cities, including Indianapolis, are finalists for hosting next year.
Those vying to keep the combine back home in Indiana say the event’s 35 year history in the Circle City may help Indianapolis in its efforts in continuing to host.
Visit Indy says it’s about relationships, connections and the experience gained after hosting the event for 35 years consecutively. There’s familiarity in Indianapolis – a sense which links the combine to the city which helped put it on the map.
From Jonathan Taylor to Aaron Rodgers, Baker Mayfield to Odell Becham Jr. if you’re an active NFL player and participated in the combine, you did it in Indy.
The event returns Tuesday, as the NFL has invited 324 prospects from colleges and universities from across the country to compete in varying drills from the fan favorite 40-yard dash to the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump and on field passing events.
In an effort to engage the fans in ways not done in Indianapolis in years past, the annual event will look admittedly different in what could be its final Indianapolis adaptation… partially due to a much restricted event last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and external pressures from would be host cities next year.
Fans will get a chance to view drills on the field inside Lucas Oil Stadium up close in person for the first time in combine history, a history Senior Communications Manager for Visit Indy Nate Swick says was built in Indianapolis.
“We know that we would love to keep this event in Indianapolis, safe and sound moving forward, but that might not be possible and so we’re just working to make sure that this event, this weekend, is the best it can be,” Swick said.
“Now it’s turning much more into a spectacle, and we’re excited to have fans, fans are excited to come out because this is sort of a behind the curtain look that we’re not usually given from the NFL.”
In years past, fans were welcomed inside the convention center to view the bench press drills along with other activations, but that’s all moved to Lucas Oil Stadium now.
Visit Indy says the move is all about bringing fans closer to the action and ensuring the event stays in Indianapolis for years to come.
“Right now we are really focused on filling up Lucas Oil Stadium. This is a long standing event with the city, we’ve had an incredible relationship with the NFL for longer than 35 years. We’re really excited to have them continue to be in Indianapolis right now,” Swick said. “Yes, we would love to be able to keep them safe and sound moving forward but right now… we’re mostly focused on making sure this weekend is an incredible event.”
The NFL estimates the combine will attract some 9,000 visitors to the downtown area; all ranging from the 324 prospects, their coaches, trainers, NFL team personnel, executives and of course… fans.
Visit Indy says these guests will help to generate $10,000,000 in economic spending for the city in the span of the seven days it will be in town.
“Indy has been the proud host city for the NFL Combine for 35 years so we’ve built some incredible relationships with the organization and with the restaurants and hospitality industry here in the city with NFL execs, with NFL coaches and so this is something that is really hits close to home to Indianapolis as we look forward to this weekend we look forward to keeping this event safe and sound in Indianapolis,” Swick said. “It really comes down to those relationships that we’ve built over the years and what that looks like for the future.”
All tickets for the event are free. Pre-order tickets have already been claimed, but walk-up tickets will be available on a first come first served basis.
- Thursday, March 3 from 4-11 p.m. – tight ends, quarterbacks, and wide receivers
- Friday, March 4 from 4-11 p.m. – offensive linemen and running backs
- Saturday, March 5 from 4-11 p.m. – defensive linemen and linebackers
- Sunday, March 6 from 2-7:30 p.m. – defensive backs
Fans will not only get to watch drills in person, the concession stands will be open along with plenty of photo ops. You can pose with the Vince Lombardi Trophy, every Super Bowl ring to date and more.