The NFL won’t use every seat at AT&T Stadium for its draft next week, instead creating an “end-zone theater.” But the Cowboys still expect around 25,000 fans to witness the selection process inside the stadium each day.
The NFL’s draft lottery for free tickets set a record, and with a capacity of 108,000 each day at the Draft Experience outside the stadium, this draft could surpass last year’s numbers.
“I would just say that we always hope to beat previous numbers,” Chad Estis, the Cowboys’ executive vice president of business operations, said. “. . . We have high expectations. The lottery for people to receive the tickets in the actual theater has exceeded what they had last year, so there’s some early indications that we have an opportunity to have some super large numbers out there.”
Philadelphia drew 250,000 last year to the three-day outdoor event, setting the all-time draft attendance mark, while drawing rave reviews.
The Cowboys expect thousands to attend the festival outside the stadium without seeing the actual draft, with total crowds somewhere around 90,000 fans in attendance each day.
“Everything we do, I’m told a record is a must,” Estis said. “We’ve got a nice list going with NBA All-Star and WrestleMania and Academy of Country Music Awards. Add this to the list.”
For the first time, each of the 32 teams will have a section just for its fans.
“I think the NFL really views this event as an event for diehard football fans,” Estis said. “So I think having team sections like that, down on the floor, close to the stage to create all that really cool atmosphere of hardcore fans, I think that’s what the NFL wants, and I know they’re working hard to make sure that fans from each of those markets end up in those seats. I think that would just create this unique dynamic.
“If you remember last year when our Drew Pearson stood up to announce our second-round pick in Philadelphia, and it created such a stir in the auditorium there. I think that’s something everybody looked to and said, ‘That’s actually the kind of atmosphere that you want at one of these events.’ So by having all the teams represented down right in front of the stage, I think we’ve just created some really interesting atmosphere.”