Packers seek taxpayer support to host 2025 NFL Draft, estimate event will draw 250,000 visitors

NOW: Packers seek taxpayer support to host 2025 NFL Draft, estimate event will draw 250,000 visitors

GREEN BAY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Green Bay Packers on Wednesday offered estimates on how much it will cost to host the 2025 NFL Draft and how much money the team expects the event to pump into Wisconsin's economy.

In order to stage the massive event, which team and local officials forecast will bring 250,000 visitors to Green Bay, the Packers called for state taxpayers to help cover the expenses. 

The Packers and Discover Green Bay estimate the influx of visitors would generate $94 million in spending across the state; of that amount, $74 million would be spent outside of Green Bay.

The team estimates it will cost $7.5 million to put on the draft, citing the need for additional police and cleanup resources, among other needs.

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said it would be money well spent, because in addition to the spending, the state would receive great exposure.

"It's really the two years leading up to it," Murphy said. "It'll be a two-year long commercial for the benefits of Green Bay and Wisconsin."

The Packers have committed to covering $1 million and said Wednesday they are leading a fundraising effort to bring in private dollars. Still, the team called on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican legislative leaders to put $2 million in the upcoming two-year state budget for draft expenses.

"As [visitors] come in, they'll be filling their cars with gas, having lunch at cafes and restaurants throughout our state," Discover Wisconsin President/CEO Brad Toll said. "And we fully expect fans will be staying overnight in cities throughout Wisconsin, including Milwaukee and Madison."

The idea of using taxpayer money to help put on the NFL Draft has bipartisan support among Northeast Wisconsin lawmakers. Republican Rep. David Steffen of Green Bay submitted a formal request on May 19 asking for the next state budget to include $2 million for draft costs. 

Democratic Rep. Kristina Shelton of Green Bay was at Wednesday's press event at Lambeau Field, and in an interview afterward, said she also supported the request.

"Absolutely," Shelton said. "I mean, what we saw today was the return on investment -- $20 million locally, $94 million around the state -- this is a significant return on those tax dollars."

Spokespersons for Evers did respond to questions Wednesday. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) did not respond to questions either.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) referred questions to Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), who co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.

"We are aware of the request by the Packers for the state to provide financial support for the NFL Draft," Born said in a statement his office emailed Wednesday. "Conversations about this request are ongoing as part of the larger budget conversation."

Expecting a surge, draft logistics still undetermined

About one hour south of Lambeau Field, at The Northwestern House in Sheboygan, waitress and cook Kaitlyn Valenzuela said she expected a surge in traffic similar to what her community saw when the Whistling Straits golf course hosted the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015.

"It was kind of overwhelming," Venezuela said. "But it was also explaining how we have butter on our sandwiches, and that's always a thing. And people are like, 'oh I don't like butter on my sandwiches, you know."

Kaitlyn Venezuela, a waitress and cook at The Northwestern House in Sheboygan, expects a surge in traffic similar to when the PGA Championship came to Sheboygan.

While cooks will continue to slather hard rolls in butter at Northwestern House over the next two years, the way Green Bay's draft stage will be arranged is still undetermined. 

Gabrielle Valdez Dow, the Packers' vice president of marketing and fan engagement, said at Wednesday's press conference the team's preference was to put the stage on Lambeau Field itself, with fans of all 32 NFL teams filling in the bleachers.

That, of course, prompted a follow-up question about the possibility of bad weather. Murphy said the NFL indicated it would welcome that spectacle at the "Frozen Tundra."

"Peter O'Reilly from the league, he and I were talking," Murphy said. "And I said, 'Peter, what if it snows?' He said, 'that would be great!'"

However, the Packers don't have the final say. The NFL calls all the shots when it comes to how drafts are run. Valdez Dow said the NFL would send staffers to Green Bay next month for the first of multiple site checks.

Valdez Dow said all of the draft activities would be confined to the Lambeau Field campus, which includes the stadium, Titletown District and the Resch Complex, which consists of both the expo center and arena. 

Team officials said details about parking and gates in and out of the Lambeau campus would be determined in the coming months. Murphy said the team was working with Amtrak to run a train from Milwaukee to Green Bay during the three-day draft.

Venezuela said, no matter how the stage is arranged in 2025, her advice to visitors would be the same.

"If it's your first time here, I suggest you get all the butter," she said. "Don't go easy, don't go no butter. Just get all of it."

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