The city of Nashville is currently hosting its biggest multi-day event ever— and now it’s already looking to the future.
More than 125,000 visitors came to town for the first day of the 2019 NFL Draft, which took place on Thursday. The enormous crowds of people packed onto Nashville’s main drag of Broadway looked happy despite some rain, and initial TV ratings for ABC were up 28% — with a 3.7 Nielsen household rating — compared to Fox’s first night last year. (This is the first time ABC is broadcasting all three rounds of the NFL Draft.)
All of that leads Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., to look to the future.
“Probably the next step is talking to FIFA and World Cup,” Spyridon told Yahoo Finance. “We're a finalist to be a host city [of the 2026 World Cup]. We would like to do that, we think this demonstrates that we can compete with anybody on a global stage.”
Spyridon reasons that Nashville’s successful sports events in the past helped win it the hosting rights to the NFL Draft, and now he hopes hosting the NFL Draft can similarly help land it the World Cup.
“What we’ve done in the past, including Nashville Predator watch parties, helped lead to the NFL having confidence in us,” he said. “It’s always been part of our strategy from when we first started using events to showcase the brand [of the city], drive demand, and generate some PR.”
Although Nashville’s population is booming, it is just the 24th-largest city in the U.S. Many doubt that the city’s infrastructure would support World Cup crowds. And tourism chief Spyridon, who was instrumental in bringing the NFL Draft to Nashville, acknowledges that the city stretched its limits to host the Draft.
“You want to make sure the city’s comfortable with what we’re doing,” he says, “and I would readily admit we’ve pushed the envelope a little bit with our friends at the NFL. But the end result is the setting is beautiful, the talent is incredible, the three networks and a fly cam going five blocks down Broadway, says that we can do whatever it takes.”
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.