NFL visits Charlotte to hear the Queen City’s pitch for the draft

CHARLOTTE — Less than a week after the 2023 NFL Draft concluded in Kansas City, Charlotte leaders rolled out the red carpet for the NFL with the goal of landing a future NFL Draft.

NFL leaders heard from a pitch from Charlotte leaders on May 4 and toured First Ward Park as a potential draft site.

Channel 9′s Government Reporter Joe Bruno obtained emails laying out the visit and pitch. A spokesperson for the Charlotte Sports Foundation confirmed the visit and said it is too early to share specific information.

Charlotte officials do not have a specific year they are targeting.

Just after 5 p.m. on Monday, the NFL announced that Green Bay would host the 2025 draft.

According to an agenda obtained by Bruno, the May 4 meeting at Bank of America Stadium started with a greeting by Carolina Panthers President Kristi Coleman. Following introductions by the NFL draft team, Charlotte leaders gave their pitch. According to city documents, here’s how the pitch shook out:

  • Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Janet LaBar’s duty was to give a presentation on the Charlotte region as a whole.
  • City Manager Marcus Jones’ job was to focus on collaboration and synergy between all parties in Charlotte (public, private and professional teams).
  • Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio was tasked with a presentation on the unique aspects of the region and discussing First Ward Park, Romare Bearden Park and Memorial Stadium. Those three locations are where draft events would be held, but the entire Uptown area would be activated.
  • Center City Partners President Michael Smith was assigned Uptown’s walkability.
  • CRVA President Tom Murray’s job was to pitch hotels and Charlotte’s experience holding major events like the Democratic National Convention.
  • Bank of America Charlotte President Kieth Cockrell was assigned to explain the “excitement and support from the business community.”
  • Charlotte Sports Foundation Chief Operating Officer Will Pitts was tasked with explaining the success of major sporting events in Charlotte.
  • Coleman was assigned with summarizing the process.
  • Architect Ron Smith was assigned the site plan and vision.
  • Quail Hollow’s Adam Sperling and Pitts were assigned the operational layout and structure.

According to documents, NFL site visit representatives included Executive VP of Club Business, International and League Events Peter O’ Reilly, Vice President of Event Strategy & Integration Matthew Shapiro, Senior Director of Event Operations Eric Finkelstein, Director of Event Location Strategy & Planning Aubrey Walton, and Event Strategy Coordinator Helen Roddey.

Following the presentations and a question and answer period, Charlotte and NFL officials toured First Ward Park as the potential draft site.

The NFL’s visit to Charlotte was not widely known. In the event of media inquiries, Charlotte officials were given talking points advising them to be broad in their comments and to say they are aware of the NFL’s timeline and they do not have a specific target year. The email, sent to Cockrell, Smith, Murray, and Diorio, also stated it is a community-led effort and the Panthers have been supportive. Other talking points included they are “very early in the process and are interested in learning more” and that “Charlotte is an incredible place to host large sporting events like the NFL Draft.”

After the visit

Around 6 p.m. on May 4, Pitts wrote an email to 13 people including Panthers Owner Nicole Tepper and Charlotte Sports Foundation President Danny Morrison with the subject line “thank you.” He said he thought the visit went well.

“I believe they were impressed by our city, our southern hospitality, as well as, overall the excitement and support our community showed for this opportunity,” Pitts wrote. “I want to thank each of you again for your time and efforts to hopefully bring the NFL Draft to Charlotte!”

Coleman and LaBar agreed with his assessment.

“I echo Will’s sentiments,” she wrote. “Thank you all and to everyone who helped make today possible.”

“Great job by the CSF and TSE teams,” LaBar wrote. “Always thrilled to be with partners in pursuing major opportunities for our community. Look forward to their feedback and offering continued support.”

An NFL spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the Panthers referred comments to the Charlotte Sports Foundation.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the city responded to Bruno with the following statement: “The city has been engaged in conversations with our partners about Charlotte hosting the NFL Draft. Through our participation in the Charlotte Sports Foundation the city has a great track record of working with our community to lead similar efforts to attract marquee events to our city which have increased the profile of Charlotte and created economic opportunities for the people and business of Charlotte. In these pursuits we have leaned into our partnerships and supported events including financial support and with implementation, including event support, marketing and logistics. These events are important to our city, and we intend to continue to attract as well as execute world-class events. We look forward to continuing that work regarding the NFL Draft.”

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