The NFL is preparing to open the doors to the Scouting Combine to more fans than ever this year.
The move to make the event—held annually at Lucas Oil Stadium—more accessible could nearly triple the number of fans currently allowed in to see the tightly-controlled Combine live.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants as many as 2,000 fans admitted into the Combine, a league source said.
Jeff Foster, president of Indianapolis-based National Invitational Camp, which organizes and operates the Combine, told IBJ on Tuesday it has yet to be determined how many more fans will be let into the event—which is held Feb. 23-29 this year.
The NFL first cracked the doors open to the private affair in 2012, letting in 250 fans to watch certain aspects of the Combine workouts live. In 2013, the number was bumped to 600.
In subsequent years, the number of tickets issued to fans—who are required to go through a lengthy application process—was raised to 700. Last year, 350 fans were allowed to see a morning session and 350 an evening session during a single day.
This year, fans will be allowed in for morning and afternoon sessions on Feb. 27, a Saturday. They will be seated in Lucas Oil Stadium’s west upper deck.
The fans are fed a meal, given prizes and supplied with a headset to listen to Marshall Faulk commentate on the action. Tickets to the Combine are free but cannot be resold and are not transferable.
Foster called the interest in seeing aspects of the event live “unbelievable.”
While many on the inside of Combine operations want the event to maintain its focus of testing athletes mentally, physically and medically for NFL team owners, general managers and coaches, Goodell has led the charge to open up the event to the public.
So when Foster got the call from the NFL earlier this month asking his organization to prepare to allow more fans in, he wasn’t completely surprised. Foster weaves tales of football fans lining up for hours in inclement weather to get into the Combine, which has been held in Indianapolis since 1987.
“Increasing access grows the game,” Foster said. “The fans are what make the NFL what it is.”
Fans must apply for Combine tickets at 1iota.com and provide a short essay on why they are worthy of receiving the sought-after tickets. Season ticket holders of any of the 32 NFL teams are given strong consideration.
Among the things fans can see live is the 40-yard dash for quarterbacks, wide receivers, offensive linemen and tight ends as well as position skill drills.
Last year, there were more than 1,000 credentialed media members covering the Combine and more than 8 million fans watched the live coverage on NFL Network. Signaling the rise in the event’s popularity, both of those numbers were high water marks for the 30-plus year old event.
Earlier this month Visit Indy signed a multi-year deal to keep the event here through 2017 with three one-year options to extend the stay through 2020.
Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops said he “fully expects all of the extensions to be executed,” with the 2018 extension anticipated to be finalized by May 1. Foster agreed with Hoops’ assertion.