Many years ago, the NFL Draft was an event that occurred on a Saturday afternoon in April that was broadcast on ESPN television. The first time the draft was ever televised was in 1980 when ESPN was a brand new network. While hardcore NFL fans always tuned in and paid attention to the draft, it was in essence not that big of a deal for anyone else besides football fans. In 2017, the NFL Draft is now considered a Prime Time Event and is hosted on two channels beginning at 8:00 PM on a Thursday night right in the middle of Prime Time Heaven. The draft continues on Friday night and ends on Saturday afternoon making it a three-day event covered by both the NFL channel and ESPN. The three-day concept originally began in 2010.
In recent years, the NFL Draft has expanded beyond a single party at the actual drafting site, to a series of NFL team parties held at NFL Stadiums around the country. This past Thursday night, my son and I attended our fourth annual New York Jets Draft Party at MetLife Stadium. As season tickets holders, we are invited for free every year. It’s an invitation that we have accepted since the team began hosting the draft parties four years ago.
The first year the New Jets hosted their draft party, fans were allowed to celebrate the draft with on field access. The simple concept of being allowed to walk on to the turf of an NFL stadium is worth the trip alone for a die-hard NFL fan. And it’s also a pretty cool experience even if you’re not a big time NFL fan.
Perhaps, the most exciting aspect of the Jets NFL Draft Party was the teams invitation for season ticket holders to tour the actual New York Jets locker room. By arriving early to the NFL Draft Party, New York Jets fans did not have to wait too long to enter the Jets Locker Room. Once inside the locker room, there was no rush to exit. Fans were allowed to take their time taking pictures and most incredibly, allowed to pose in front of the New York Jets 1969 Super Bowl Trophy!
The New York Jets are not the only NFL Football team to host the NFL Draft Party at MetLife Stadium every year. The New York Giants also participate in the festivities. In the first year’s draft held at MetLife Stadium teams split the field down the middle with a rope. Giants fans were on one side of the fifty yard line and Jet fans on the other side. The following year, both teams took the ropes down and let fans intermingle across the entire playing field. The NFL Draft Party at MetLife stadium had turned out to be a very family friendly event in which many young kids enjoyed a variety of on field games.
For my younger son, the highlight of the NFL Draft party was the opportunity to stand in line and receive autographs from current New York Jets players. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson also came down to the field and talked with fans. While the New York Giants do not employ a cheer leading team, the New York Jets have heavily promoted their popular cheerleaders. On the field, the New York Jets cheerleaders smiled widely and eagerly posed for pictures with many older smiling male NFL fans.
For the first two years in 2014 and 2015, the NFL Draft Party at MetLife Stadium was an exciting event made very special by granting fans access to the locker rooms, special activities and the wonderful experience of walking the football field. Standing on the fifty yard line and staring up into the stands was for many a surreal experience.
In 2016, the NFL Draft Party at MetLife Stadium offered fans a very different experience than the previous two years. MetLife Stadium had booked a motor cross event which closed the field to the NFL fans. Wanting to still offer fans a special experience, the New York Jets and Giants held their NFL Draft party in the expensive club houses that the average fans can not afford during the regular season. The Chase Club and Toyota Club are large indoor clubs that are reserved for season ticket holders of club seats. These are very expensive seats that average 400 dollars and up per seat per game during the regular season. These are also seats that carry PSL licenses of up to twenty five thousand dollars per seat. So the opportunity to experience the MetLife Stadiums clubs is limited to most Jets and Giant fans. However, in 2016, those clubhouses were opened to all season ticket holders to enjoy the NFL Draft Party.
In 2016, Jet fans were offered the Chase Club, while Giants fans were offered the Toyota Club. Both clubs are located in the mezzanine section of the stadium and stretch from end zone to end zone on opposite sides of the stadiums. While we were very disappointed last year at not being able to walk the fields, the experience of enjoying the clubs was well worth the trip to the stadium. The clubs are beautiful. They offer comfortable seating with great sites lines to television monitors all through the club. There are multiple bars also lined with comfortable seats. The bathrooms are upper scale and very clean. There are many food stands spread across the club much like a standard mall food court. We spent the first half off the night, eating and watching the NFL Draft on the television monitors. The only issue we had hearing the draft was because of the crowd noise inside the clubhouse. However, the clubhouse opened up to the mezzanine section in which you could sit outside and watch the draft on the large scoreboards. The outdoor public announcement system broadcast the audio loud and clear so one could hear every analytical word from the NFL Channels draft broadcasters.
In 2017, the Jets and Giant sent their fans once again to the club houses, because of a Motocross event that was being set up on the field. This time both teams had the fans switch sides so the Jets fans were sent to the Toyota Club while Giant fans were sent to the Chase club. Interestingly, they also had us park on opposite sides of the stadium. After having experienced both clubs, its to difficult to draw a conclusion that either one is superior to the other. Both clubs are almost exactly the same.
The New York Giants and Jets do a very nice job at hosting their NFL Draft Parties. Some people may think its crazy to drive all the way to a football stadium to watch a draft on a television, but hardcore NFL fans love the draft and being at the stadium for it just doubles the fun. Will we do it again next year? Well, in all honesty, after sitting in traffic for three hours on a weeknight to get to the stadium during rush hour, the denial of field access may make us think twice. Nah. we are hardcore, we will be there!
New York Jets Super Bowl Trophy on display in the New York Jets Locker Room
After the locker room tours of 2014 and 15, fans were allowed to enter the stadium through the same entrance way the New York Jets enter the field on game day.
There were many athletic events on the field during the NFL Draft Party in 2015 and 2014. The one below need no explaining.
Inside the Toyota Club at the 2016 NFL Draft Party before the crowds took over.
A view of the Motocross set up at MetLife Stadium at the 2017 NFL Draft Party
Entrance way and ramps to the MetLife Stadium Toyota Club