NFL Combine happy in Indy

February 20, 2008
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With all that’s happening on the local sports scene, it’s easy to forget about the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins today in the RCA Dome. The Combine, which was first held in Indianapolis in 1987, is an event that has a multi-million economic impact. It’s also an event the city almost lost.

The event which this year will showcase 333 National Football League draft eligible players is closed to the public and media not affiliated with the NFL Network. But scouts and executives from all 32 NFL franchises will descend on the city for the seven-day event.

City officials have said the event in years past has added more than $1 million to Clarian Health Partners’ bottom line alone. For the Combine, Clarian has taken more than 12,000 X-ray pictures, 400 MRIs, 350 physical and psychological examinations, hundreds of blood tests, urinalyses, EKGs, CAT scans, ultra sounds, bone scans and more for the event. Clarian has devoted more than 300 of its 1,200 employees to Combine work.

Not including the medical spending, the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association estimates the Combine brings in $5 million in direct visitor spending annually. Medical experts said testing on Combine participants means another $5 million in direct spending.

Despite, the benefit to the city, Combine organizers last year said they felt under appreciated by some city officials. Combine organizers complained about the speed of the running track in the Dome and hotel room rates offered to event participants. Those complaints came despite the organizers of the Combine moving their home in 2006 from Tulsa to Indianapolis. In 2007, Dallas, Phoenix and two cities each in Florida and Missouri expressed interest in bidding for the event.

More recently the rift between city and Combine officials has healed. The track was improved, and Combine officials have been assured they have a home in the new Lucas Oil Stadium. Jeffrey Foster, president of the National Invitational Camp, which runs the combine, told IBJ this month, he is optimistic about the event’s long-term future here.

Is the NFL Scouting Combine the kind of event the city should try to lure and keep?
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  • Beyond the immediate economic impact, there's the value of maintaining a strong relationship with a professional league, in this case the NFL. The city's Super Bowl prospects are also enhanced by the annual exposure that team and league officials gain to the city via the Combine.
  • This should be a no-brainer. There doesn't seem to be any downside to this one. Keep it for as long as we can.
  • What exactly do you mean by the running track in the Dome?
  • A portable running track is installed in the Dome for the 40-yard dash. The 40-yard dash is one of the key measuring sticks for players at the Combine and can have a big impact on players' draft status. It is my understanding that numerous players, and more importantly, their agents had complained that the track surface, sub-flooring structure, etc. was causing players' 40-yard dash times to be slow. Some players even refused to run at the Combine, instead chosing to run at a facility of their choosing. As you can imagine, if players refuse to participate in the full Combine, it suddently becomes a less valuable tool for team scouts, etc. And that didn't sit well with event organizers.
  • Let's see, this event brings in 200 or so soon to be millionaires and about 100 or so who are already millionaires, along with a national press corp, whether they are let in to the event or not. Add to that five dozen or so high NFL executives coming to town ... I'd say it behooves city officials to work with these folks. As for the hotels, didn't they get a bit greedy with the F1 event. And now it's gone.
  • Thx Anthony - I had just assumed that they ran the 40 on the turf. Are they still using stopwatches to time the athletes or have them moved towards a FAT system similar to track and field?

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