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Cleveland-Canton will soon learn if 2019-20 NFL Draft bid is a success

The Browns' joint bid to bring the NFL Draft home to Northeast Ohio has hit the home stretch.

The Browns, cities of Cleveland and Canton, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will learn next month whether their bid to host the 2019 or 2020 NFL Draft -- or both -- is a success. The group is one of five finalists -- the only of which includes multiple locations -- along with Nashville, Las Vegas, Kansas City and Denver. The NFL will come to its decision at its spring league meetings, which are set for May 21-23 in Atlanta.

A process that's been years' in the making, and remains ongoing, is nearing the finish line, and the key figures who have been involved from the beginning expressed confidence and excitement Monday about its likelihood to come to fruition.

"We're excited," said David Jenkins, Browns Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer. "We feel like we put forth an extremely strong bid that's extremely competitive with the other five cities. The uniqueness of being able to partner with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and professional football was founded here in Northeast Ohio.

"When you have the story of the 100th anniversary of football next year, football was founded in Northeast Ohio, what better place to host it than here in Northeast Ohio?"

Jenkins and David Gilbert, who serves as the president and CEO of the Cleveland Sports Commission, unveiled a number of details from the group's proposal, which was pitched during the fall and formalized after a trimming of the field earlier this month. The NFL initially received pitches from 22 cities before narrowing the group to eight, and then five.

Jenkins and Gilbert believe their pitch has something the other cities can't match when it comes to the area's connection with football's origins. 2019 will mark the NFL's 100th season. The following year will mark its centennial anniversary.

"It wasn't about just Cleveland or just Canton, it was how do you unify the tremendous history of the Browns and what it's meant for many many decades to Cleveland along with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the 100th anniversary," Gilbert said. "To us, it just created a compelling story of why one of those two years would make a lot of sense."

It would all start Wednesday in Canton, where the past and present of the NFL's elite would mix and mingle at a Testimonial for the Game dinner. On Thursday, the spotlight would shine bright on Cleveland, a place where major events such as the Republican National Convention and Cavs championship parade went off without a hitch.

Cleveland's Public Auditorium would be the site for the draft's first three rounds. The surrounding malls, Public Square and Convention Center would serve as the site of a sprawling FanFest that Gilbert and Jenkins said they would expect to draw the same number that attended Philadelphia's in 2017, roughly 250,000.

The Philadelphia economy generated close to $95 million during last year's draft, and that's the kind of boon Cleveland and Canton could experience if their bid is a success. Half of the 250,000 who attended the Philadelphia ceremonies were considered non-residents, Gilbert said.

"From a people standpoint and out-of-towner standpoint, other than hosting another political convention, I dont know of an event Cleveland could host that would have a larger impact," Gilbert said. "They have to have a lot of confidence our community can come together quickly and provide them everything they need in a real easy way.

"We all feel very confident that if they choose Cleveland, we're going to deliver in a big way. We're not going to be learning on the job."

The action would shift to Canton on Saturday, though the Pro Football Hall of Fame will maintain a presence throughout the draft from start to finish. Rounds 4-7 would be centered there, and those looking to experience both cities would be able to ride free shuttles between the cities.

"What really excites us, you've seen it since the Haslams bought the team, a tremendous focus on our fanbase," Jenkins said. "We have a tremendously loyal fan base, which we're very fortunate to have. What can we do to give them great experiences? The second thing is to give back to this community that's been so good to us."

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