Indianapolis to retain NFL Scouting Combine through at least 2025

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The NFL Scouting Combine in 2019 (IBJ file photo)

The National Football League is sticking with Indianapolis as the host city for its high-profile Scouting Combine for at least one more year.

The move will keep the multi-day event at the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium through 2025, but the league is continuing to explore its options—including staying put in Indianapolis—for years beyond that.

The extension follows several meetings between team owners over the past six months about charting a path forward for the event, which has had a more formal host-bidding process since late 2021. Owners and the league worked closely with city leaders as well as the operators of the National Invitational Camp, which runs the combine, with the parties finalizing a one-year deal at the end of December.

The media-saturated combine has been hosted in Indianapolis every year since 1987. It serves as a job interview and talent and medical evaluation process for upwards of 300 top college prospects ahead of the NFL Draft.

“Indianapolis has a storied history with the NFL Combine, so we are thrilled to continue partnering with Visit Indy, the Indianapolis Colts, and our local partners for the event in 2025,” Peter O’Reilly, executive vice president of club business and international & league events at the NFL, said in a written statement.

“The city has continued to innovate and help us evolve both the setup for the football evaluation process as well as growing the in-person experience for football fans in the region and across the country.”

Indianapolis is already set to host this year’s combine, which is scheduled for Feb. 29 to March 3. The 2025 combine will be Feb. 27 to March 2.

Since the bidding process began, Indianapolis has managed to keep its grasp on the combine, even amid competition from cities including Dallas and Los Angeles. The 2024 combine is part of an extension agreement that occurred in 2022, alongside last year’s event.

The league said in 2021 that it was open to making the combine more of a fan-focused event akin to the Super Bowl and more recently the NFL Draft.

“Over the last year, we’ve been in discussions with [the NFL] and we believe they’ve been having similar discussions with other cities who have expressed interest like we have,” said Chris Gahl, executive vice president of Visit Indy. “It came down to staving off the competition and being able to hang on to the event for an additional year.”

The Indianapolis Colts, Visit Indy, Indiana Sports Corp., the Capital Improvement Board of Managers, Indiana University Health and officials in Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration were directly involved in the bid and negotiation processes.

More than 5,000 league officials, team executives, agents, sponsors and media members flock to the city every year for the combine.

While last year’s $9.1 million in economic impact was the most ever generated by the event, the figure is still modest given the other events hosted by Indianapolis, such as Gen Con ($70 million annually), National FFA ($40 million) and FDIC International ($33 million).

But the combine has also grown to be among the city’s most important annual events given the intense media coverage and fanfare it garners year-over-year, drawing attention to the city in a way many other conventions and events don’t.

“If anything, this one-year extension validates the fact that any other city competing with us for this event was not as successful positioning its destination as the logical hosts,” Gahl said.

Part of Indianapolis’ draw this time around, he said, was that it committed to working with the NFL to further expand the Combine Experience from within the walls of the Indiana Convention Center to an additional fan-focused space on the south lot of Lucas Oil Stadium. That area gives give fans a close-up view of the Vince Lombardi Trophy won by the Colts in Super Bowl XLI, all 57 Super Bowl rings, interactive games and merchandise areas.

Indianapolis is looking for additional ways to expand the event’s interaction with fans, as well, through past and current player autograph sessions, recreation areas, and live music and entertainment offerings.

“They’ve charged us and challenged us to make the fan experience in Indianapolis at the combine similar to what a fan or visitor sees at the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl or the Draft,” Gahl said.

In 2022, the league began permitting fans to fill the lower bowl of Lucas Oil Stadium to see primetime broadcasts of on-the-field workouts. About 10,000 fans per day were permitted last year, with that approach expected to continue in 2024 and beyond. The city has also begun using the parking lot south of the stadium for combine-adjacent activity.

The approach is an evolution from the league’s former position on fan involvement at the combine, as the event had historically been more focused on the business of football, rather than fan engagement.

The league worked with Visit Indy and the city to create the Combine Experience as it is today, ahead of the 2017 event. The move was the first time spectators were permitted to go into the Indiana Convention Center to watch prospects participate in the bench-press drill, take part in interactive games, and glimpse the media center, where press conferences and interviews are conducted.

Tens of thousands of fans attended both the indoor and outdoor portions of the Combine Experience last year, according to Visit Indy; a more specific figure was not immediately available.

The continued focus on fan engagement also comes as the NFL grapples with continued questions about the value and relevance of the event itself.

Former leaders of the NFL Players’ Association have strongly opposed the combine, as they consider it intrusive and focused on identifying negative attributes for the few hundred invited prospects.

For Indianapolis, retaining the combine was “of paramount importance,” Gahl said. The city has a playbook it can turn to if or when the combine does leave Indianapolis, but by prioritizing the event over another league event like the NFL Draft—something the city has thrown its hat in the ring to host in the coming years—the city was able to stave off a potential departure for at least another year.

Negotiations for retaining the event after 2025 are expected to start after the 2024 combine is in the rearview.

“Team Indy is focused on making sure the 2024 combine grows in terms of … those who are stepping foot inside or outside the stadium for those events,” he said. “The NFL is holding us accountable to grow this event, so after we wrap things up and look at the health of the event and how many people came through, we’ll be able to turn our attention to look into potentially hosting the draft and what the decision-making timeline is for doing that.”

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3 thoughts on “Indianapolis to retain NFL Scouting Combine through at least 2025

  1. I have traveled throughout many of these cities that would like to take the combine to their city and Indianapolis is still heads and tails above them. They have everything the scouts would need within walking or very short distance and any real amenity that they might need. It is centrally located relative to most of the country for travel.
    All the other cities can offer are things that are not or shouldn’t be part of the experience, which are of a not so legitimate nature and not the types of things that are good for what real scouts would or should be doing. Plus, even with a less palatable downtown than in some other previous times, is still much better than most of the other cities.
    Indy is not the “party” city that some other places are but for teams and their coaches it offers less distractions and everything else they need to do what they are there to do.

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