City, NFL Scouting Combine nearing 5-year contract agreement

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 13, 2016) – Anyone expecting the NFL Scouting Combine to join the Rams’ relocation to Los Angeles is advised to pump the brakes. Actually, push them to the floor.

Combine officials and representatives of the Capital Improvement Board and Visit Indy are close to finalizing a five-year contract that will tie the NFL’s annual, high-profile player evaluation event to Indianapolis through 2020. A deal could be in place sometime this week.

The city has hosted the NFL Scouting Combine since 1987 – it again takes over downtown Feb. 23-29 – despite attempts by other cities to lure it away.

“As far as we’re concerned, there’s a reason we’ve been here for 30 years,’’ said Jeff Foster, president of the locally-based National Football Scouting, Inc. “And those reasons have gotten better every year.

“We’ve had (relocation) discussions before. We were having them as I was coming on board 10 years ago. Moving the draft to Chicago last year and having great success in Chicago stimulated the conversation again.

“There are a lot of people who liken the NFL draft and the NFL Combine. I would disagree with that.’’

The possibility of the NFL Scouting Combine being moved to the proposed $2-3 billion stadium/complex in Inglewood that will house the Rams apparently was part of the Rams’ relocation proposal to NFL owners on Tuesday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, venue developers envision the complex hosting such indoor events as the NCAA’s Final Four, the Pro Bowl, the NFL Combine, conventions and award shows.

Including the combine in the presentation, insisted Foster, “was an interesting throw-in. I can’t speak for the NFL, but I can tell you nobody involved in that presentation talked to anybody in this office.’’

The Inglewood venue is projected to open for the 2019 season and expected to be off-the-charts extravagant.

“The stadium is nice,’’ Foster said, “but it’s way down the list of priorities of what we need to run a successful combine. I think that was all a marketing piece done by the Rams.

“Until IU Health and the Crowne Plaza move to Los Angeles, I’m not interested in talking about it.’’

Those are two of the prominent partners and reasons the combine has worked seamlessly in Indianapolis. Another plus is the city’s “connectivity,’’ according to Foster.

Everything is in close proximity: Lucas Oil Stadium, site of on-field testing, interviews and physical/medical examinations; the Crowne Plaza, which houses more than 300 players and offers a conference center; the downtown hotels, which are filled by nearly 2,000 coaches, general managers and league personnel, and more than 1,000 members of the media.

Foster noted it was recently announced the NFL Combine is the league’s No. 2 media event, trailing only the Super Bowl.

The closeness of the combine’s moving parts, most notably the medical exams, can’t be overstated. Last year, there were 400 MRIs and 2,000 X-rays in four days on the 330 draft prospects.

“That doesn’t even take into play the EKGs, the labs, all the different scans we do,’’ Foster said. “The scheduling gives me a headache.

“I would ask this L.A. group if they have a pipeline underground where they can connect four mobile MRI units to their local hospital. That’s what we do here. When Lucas Oil Stadium was built, there were enough people who had the forethought to build that infrastructure to where we can drive four mobile MRI units into the basement of Lucas Oil Stadium, literally connect them and it’s as if you’re sitting 16 blocks up to IU Health.

“That’s invaluable to us. Those are little things that I don’t expect anybody to understand, but if you want to know if we can successfully move this event you should ask the people who operate it.’’

According to Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, the NFL Combine’s economic impact on the city is about $8.27 million. The event’s overall impact, though, “is immeasurable,’’ he said.

The national media along with NFL owners and coaches are exposed to the city’s convenient infrastructure.

“To say that didn’t help us win the Super Bowl (bid) and be in the running for others is underestimated,’’ Gahl said. “Our city was built to host major sporting events, and this is no different.’’

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