NFL Combine could ink new Indy extension deal later this year

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The NFL Scouting Combine in 2019 (IBJ file photo)

City tourism and event leaders say they are working closely with representatives of the NFL Scouting Combine to extend the event’s stay in Indianapolis past next year.

The Combine—a five-day showcase featuring 300 of college football’s top players—has been hosted by Indianapolis since 1987 and is slated to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium through 2020.The Combine is currently in the fourth year of a five-year deal with Indianapolis.

While a decision about the event’s future won’t be announced for several months, Indianapolis seems to be in prime position to keep the event for 2021 and beyond.

Jeff Foster, president of locally-based National Football Scouting—a group that oversees the Combine for the league—confirmed the organization is in conversations with the city, Visit Indy and the Capital Improvement Board, which owns and operates the stadium and the Indiana Convention Center.

Foster said the hope is to secure a deal that could keep the Combine in the city for the next several years. He declined to say whether the event is in danger of moving to another city or whether incentives might be offered to keep the event in Indianapolis.

He said no immediate announcement is forthcoming on the matter, but said one would be made in "the next year."

"Certainly prior to … the 2020 event, we will have made those decisions and will be able to announce," Foster said.

Foster said the city’s track record puts it in a prime position to land a multi-year extension. The event has been a fixture in Indianapolis for decades, first at the Hoosier Dome and now at Lucas Oil Stadium, with some ancillary events held at the convention center.

 “There’s no substitute for experience,” Foster said. “Having 30-plus years of experience and helping us plan, organize, coordinate and execute such a challenging event is … important.”

Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy said the group has had conversations about keeping the Combine both internally and with other involved parties for the past several months. He said the tourism group isn’t going to show its cards on incentives, since doing so could lead to more competitive bids from other cities.

Gahl said this year’s Combine is expected to have an economic impact of $8.4 million and provide up to $10 million in media exposure for the city.

This includes more than 100 hours of TV coverage on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, and from at least 1,400 credentialed media, the NFL’s second-highest count behind the Super Bowl.

“That (exposure is) something as a city we never want to take for granted,” Gahl said. “This event has people talking about football, certainly, but it also gets them talking about Indianapolis as the host city.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett said the Combine “shines a spotlight on Indianapolis” each year and the city is hopeful it will stay for the long term.

“With record-setting growth and exciting plans for the future of the Indiana Convention Center, we hope to continue this proven partnership with the NFL Combine for decades to come,” the mayor said in written statement.

A slew of community events are also put on in conjunction with the Combine, which generally occurs out of the view of the general public.This year, that includes a public bench press event at the convention center and meet-and-greets with current and former Colts players:

– Thursday, Feb. 28 from 2-5 p.m. (meet and greet with Reggie Wayne, 4:30-6:30 p.m.)

– Friday, March 1 from 2-5 p.m. (Jacoby Brissett, 4:30-6:30 p.m.)

– Saturday, March 2 from 2-5 p.m. (Jacoby Brissett and Eric Ebron, 4:30-6:30 p.m.)

– Sunday, March 3, from 2-4 p.m. (Eric Ebron, 4-6 p.m.)

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