Local officials have lured another sports-related company here and taken a huge step in assuring the NFL Scouting Combine stays in the city long term.
National Football Scouting and sister company National Invitational Camp, which operates the Combine for NFL team owners, moved its headquarters in August from Tulsa, Okla., to Indianapolis. NFS and NIC moved into the Pan Am Plaza office building, across the street from the RCA Dome, where it has held the Combine since 1987. NFS also provides scouting services for 19 NFL teams.
“We as an organization were in the process of reorganizing, and were looking for a good, central location,” said NFS President Jeffrey Foster. “There’s a great sports culture here, and it’s an easy city to get in and out of, so it really seemed to make sense for us.”
In conjunction with the move, NFS and NIC officials signed a two-year extension to hold the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis through 2008.
The NFL Scouting Combine gives teams a look at top college prospects making themselves eligible for the league’s upcoming draft. About 300 players are invited to the Combine for a battery of physical and psychological tests to prove their draft status.
“There were rumblings that [NFS and NFL owners] were discussing moving the Combine from Indianapolis, so we think this is very significant,” said Bob Bedell, CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, which led negotiations to lure the organization here.
Bedell hopes to sign a deal with NFS and NIC in the next six to 12 months to extend the Combine’s stay to at least 2016.
While the NFS and NIC staff, with five administrators and 11 scouts, is relatively small, the Combine’s impact is huge, Bedell said.
The Combine, held each February, books the entire Crowne Plaza Hotel for a week, and brings visitors to downtown restaurants and shops en masse during a typically slow period for convention and visitor traffic.
“Not only do you have the players and the event organizers, but every NFL team and agent has a large entourage at the event, and these are high-dollar folks,” said Milton Thompson, president of Grand Slam Cos., a locally based sports marketing consultancy.
And while it’s still largely an “insiders” event within the NFL, Thompson said, the Combine gets more media coverage every year. Last year’s Combine drew more than 300 media members, Foster said.
According to the ICVA, the event brings almost $5 million in direct visitor spending annually-not including millions racked up in medical expenses.
One big reason NFS and NIC officials have remained in Indianapolis is its partnership with Clarian Health Partners.
When the roaming Combine-which started in 1977-finished its stint in New Orleans and rolled into Indianapolis in 1987, few people thought it would have much impact or stay long, but Clarian’s ability to handle a growing volume of testing in a short time frame was critical to the Combine’s extended stay.
For the 2006 Combine, Clarian executed 2,683 X-rays, 400 MRIs, 350 physical and psychological examinations, hundreds of blood tests, urinalyses, EKGs, CAT scans, ultrasounds, bone scans and more in just four days.
“Due to our network, we’re able to use 15 facilities to get all that done,” said John Dickey, Clarian’s radiology director.
When medical facilities called Clarian to see what it takes to handle the Combine’s medical demands, Dickey said, most were “blown away.”
Foster, who this year took over for longtime NFS chief Duke Babb, and initiated the organization’s re-evaluation, said he looked hard at moving the firm to Dallas, Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis. Now he hopes the Combine will move no farther than a few blocks south-to the new Lucas Oil Stadium-after 2008.