NFL scouting combine could move out of Indianapolis as soon as 2023

·4-min read

Fans of St. Elmo's Steak House, Prime 47 and people watching of the who's who in one of the NFL's smallest cities might want to sit down for this report.

According to reports from Indianapolis Business Journal and WISH-TV, the NFL will open bidding for the NFL scouting combine to other host teams and cities starting in 2023.

The combine first arrived in Indianapolis in 1987, and it will remain the host city through at least 2022. Indy officials reportedly are prepared to make a robust offer to keep the event, but there likely will be serious competition.

Franchises with NFL cities also can bid on hosting multiple years of the event, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal. It's not clear if the event will be a traveling circus, year to year, a la the NFL draft since that event moved out of New York City.

Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson of Auburn runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Feb. 29, 2020. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Defensive lineman Marlon Davidson of Auburn runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Feb. 29, 2020. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

This actually comes with little shock. Rumors of the combine moving are not new. For years, the NFL has expanded its offseason fan activities, turning league events such as the combine and NFL draft into bigger showcases.

The NFL combine has increased its television imprint significantly, and limited numbers of fans have been able to attend the on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium and watch the bench press at the adjacent Indianapolis Convention Center.

Which cities might be the early favorites for NFL scouting combine?

Talk of moving the combine to a bigger market has been whispered about for years now. With NFL Network located in Los Angeles and the league wanting to show off the city's SoFi Stadium, that city has to be considered one of the front-runners.

Las Vegas, with its newly minted and largely unused Allegiant Stadium just waiting to be put on the league's pedestal, would have to be considered another prime choice.

Both of those cities also lost big events in recent years, too.

SoFi was supposed to be the host of Super Bowl LV this February, but the game was moved to Tampa when stadium construction fell behind. (NFL bylaws require stadiums to be operational for two years prior hosting a Super Bowl.) It also doesn't hurt that NFL Network's studios sit adjacent to the stadium.

And Vegas was supposed to host the 2020 NFL draft, but the in-person draft was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cold-weather cities in big markets that might not be part of the regular Super Bowl rotation might also put in bids host the combine. That would include places such as Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. All three of those cities have hosted the draft in the past decade.

The 2021 NFL combine in Indianapolis was also canceled because of COVID-19. The league barely put a bow on the 2020 combine before the country was mostly shut down a few weeks later because of the pandemic.

Expect Indy to make a last-ditch effort to keep an event that has become synonymous with the city. Via the IBJ report, Visit Indy vice president of tourism Chris Gahl told the outlet that Indianapolis plans to make a "highly competitive, comprehensive bid" with the hope of keeping the combine in place for many years.

For one week, downtown transforms into bustling hive of football activity by day and a see-and-be-seen social event at night. Local businesses have become hubs for both employees, agents and media alike, with combine week delivering big business, aided by the cozy downtown's walkability — even in the throes of an Indiana winter.

The NFL, however, might buck tradition for more bucks. It's highly possible that other NFL cities could make more lucrative bids and steal away the event from the city that has hosted it for more than three decades.

Next year's combine in Indianapolis will be the city's 35th year of hosting the event. Will it also be the last?

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