Indianapolis has hosted the annual National Football League Scouting Combine for the past 34 years. That streak could end after next year.
In a communication to all 32 of the league’s teams Wednesday morning, the NFL said it is accepting bids from franchises that would like to host the five-day event for each year from 2023 to 2028, adopting a tactic similar to what it has done with the Super Bowl and more recently the NFL Draft.
Indianapolis has hosted the combine every year since 1987. Only the medical portion of the event was held in the city this year due to of league-imposed COVID-19 restrictions.
The media-saturated combine serves as job interview and medical evaluation process for 300 of the top college prospects ahead of the draft. The event has received growing media attention and TV coverage in recent years.
Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, told IBJ the tourism agency and other local planners plan to put in a “highly competitive, comprehensive bid” that would cover the next several years of the combine. Under the NFL’s bid rules, cities and franchises are permitted to bid on multiple years.
“As the event has grown, so has the city physically,” Gahl said. “This is an event that we have proudly hosted and helped grow along the way, and one we want to viciously protect keeping in Indy beyond 2022. In working with the Colts and local Combine team, Indy will put in another competitive bid to keep this annual event safe and sound in our city.”
Pete Ward, chief operating officer for the Indianapolis Colts, said the city could look to go after the event in future years.
“It’s a determination the city will need to make,” he said “We will be fully supportive if they decide to go for it.”
Indianapolis-based National Scouting Combine—the entity that sends out invitations to would-be participants—has generally overseen the showcase since its inception, but the NFL in recent years has taken more ownership of the event.
The event is slated to return to Indianapolis in 2022, which under the NFL’s current plan would be the last year Indianapolis is guaranteed to host the event.
The NFL did not immediately return a call requesting comment.
Recent figures weren’t immediately available, but in 2019, local hospitality officials estimated the combine generated an economic impact of $8.4 million and provided up to $10 million in media exposure for the city. That included 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.
A possible shift from Indianapolis began in 2019, when the NFL agreed to an extension to keep the event in place through 2021. It also agreed to four, one-year options allowing it to reevaluate the combine’s stay in Indianapolis on an annual basis.
The NFL’s move to open the combine up to a request for proposals followed months of negotiations with Visit Indy, the Colts and the Capital Improvement Board to keep the event in Indianapolis long-term. It also comes as new, massive stadium developments take shape in the league’s larger markets.
The NFL is also planning to accept bids for the NFL Draft for 2025 through at least 2028—an event Indianapolis officials have expressed interest in hosting in years past. Gahl said Visit Indy is “going through the vetting process to determine if and when the city will go after the draft,” alongside the city, the CIB, the Colts and the Indiana Sports Corp.