Cleveland makes way for the 2021 NFL Draft on the lakefront

With the NFL Draft touching down in Cleveland from April 29-May 1, 2021, the city is doing everything it can to make way for gridiron glory. On Wednesday, Dec. 9, Cleveland City Council approved an ordinance for the demolition of two warehouses located at Docks 30 and 32 near FirstEnergy Stadium in anticipation of the NFL's final site selection.

“We believe that this is the main site under consideration, so we think it’s in the city’s best interest to prepare the site since these warehouses are in need of demolition anyway,” says Cleveland City Council president Kevin Kelley. “As long as I can remember, they’ve been in a state of disrepair and not a very active part of Cleveland’s property portfolio in terms of value.”


If selected, the site will house the NFL Draft Stage, which for past iterations has been situated in front of iconic spots such as the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas, Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway, and Nashville’s riverfront. Lake Erie is likely to soon join that scenic fold—giving millions a glimpse of what The Land has to offer (the NFL Draft hit all-time high viewership records in 2020 with 15.6 million viewers at its peak).


“The NFL Draft has become a much bigger deal in recent years,” says Kelley. “There was a time when the players would wait at their homes for a phone call, but it’s now become much more of a media event and fan experience.”


When the warehouses are demolished in 2021, it will also pave the way for future development in Cleveland by adding new infrastructure on a long-stagnant site. According to Kelley, the land’s short-term use will be additional parking for Cleveland Browns games, but he anticipates that the site will eventually serve a greater purpose for the city. “This is prime lakefront real estate,” says Kelley. “We see this as a significant development node on the lakefront; there has to be a bigger plan than just putting a parking lot here.”


In the meantime, the NFL Draft is slated to bring a significant economic impact to the city, with cities such as Nashville having experienced $224 million in economic impact with $130 million in direct spending. Kelley is also hopeful that it will serve as a coming-out party of sorts as Cleveland starts to emerge from COVID-19.


“I’m confident that we will be coming out of this pandemic when this event happens in April, and we need this boost,” says Kelley. “We need something big to happen to get people thinking about going downtown, being on the lake, enjoying sports, and everything we used to value in Cleveland. This is a much-needed win for the city coming out of COVID-19.”

Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.