Mayor on big sports week: City ‘up for it’
It’s going to be a major sports week in Philadelphia, with the city hosting the NFL Draft and the 123rd running of the Penn Relays. Mayor Jim Kenney believes the city will handle both events just fine.
“We’re up to it,” he said, following a news conference on Monday afternoon at The Shops at Liberty Place talking up the city’s “Blockbuster Sports” events. “We’ve done multiple events before at the same time. Our police department does a great job with these events and know how to handle crowds and people. We’re looking forward to a great week.
“You can’t put a price on the exposure the city gets nationally and internationally,” Kenney added. “We could never afford to pay for those commercials what people will be able to see all over their TV screens for three solid days. That’s a good thing for us.”
Both the NFL Draft and the Penn Relays will take place April 27 to 29. They will also be televised nationally, with the NFL Draft airing on ESPN and the NFL Network; and the Penn Relays, on NBCSN.
Reports have placed the number of people expected in Philadelphia for the Draft event at 200,000, while the Relays anticipates 115,000 attendees over its three-day event.
Activities for the draft will be based on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Art Museum steps, while the Penn Relays take place at University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.
While this will be the first time since 1936 that Philadelphia has hosted the NFL Draft, the city has a long and beloved history with the Penn Relays — the oldest track and field carnival in the country.
“The event is far more than a track meet,” said Dave Johnson, Frank Dolson Director of the Penn Relays. “It’s a virtual institution in Philadelphia. It’s become a family heritage. It is a time for family reunions for sororities. It’s a time to remember old friends and meet new ones and reminisce over the course of the wonderful three days.”
The Penn Relays is huge to athletes from elementary schools right up to the Masters, which features senior track and field performers. A special meet for high schools and colleges, the event brings athletes from the Caribbean/Jamaica and other countries.
Grace Foods is a sponsor of the Penn Relays from Kingston, Jamaica. Business development manager Shelton Rose has seen a number of athletes from Jamaica run at the legendary track meet.
“Our first year was 1964, that a high school from Jamaica ran in the Penn Relays,” Rose said. “That was Kingston College. I believe this year we have around 30 teams from Jamaica. A lot of kids look forward to coming to Philadelphia, which is a proven ground for kids from Jamaica. If you make it in Philadelphia, you can go to the Olympics.”
The Penn Relays’ signature event has been USA vs. The World, which features some of the best men and women track and field athletes in the world. It provides fans with a peek into the Olympic competition in 2020. Former NFL and track and field legend Renaldo Nehemiah talked about this competition.
“It’s a global event every year,” Nehemiah said. “I’m happy that it has taken place here at the Penn Relays. I always thought that this is the grand daddy of all the relays. There’s some changing parts every year. We have a lot of talent that is hard to manage every year, but we’re representing ourselves fairly well. We have this rivalry with Jamaica. American athletes want to be on one of those relay teams that’s showcased and gets aired on national TV.”
Penn track freshman and athlete Elena Brown-Soler will make her first appearance at Penn Relays this week.
“I’m really excited to see the stadium full with lots of people,” she said. “It’s an honor to be from the host school and to run in the Penn Relays.”