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VOL. 43 | NO. 9 | Friday, March 1, 2019

Nashville hopes to put on a high-tech show for NFL draft

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Nashville SC, the city’s new Major League Soccer franchise, leans on social media to build support.

-- Photo By Tom Wood |The Ledger

It’s April 25, and the NFL draft is about to kick off in downtown Nashville. More than 100,000 football fans have poured onto streets near Riverfront Park to witness the historic Music City primetime event.

TV cameras are everywhere covering the league’s first round of selections. Team representatives are stationed at Schermerhorn Symphony Center to make their picks – or a deal. A-list music stars play at the Draft Theater’s main stage all day, while across the Cumberland River, Nissan Stadium is hosting the interactive NFL Fan Experience.

And now it’s showtime, Music City style.

As Commissioner Roger Goodell announces Arizona’s No. 1 pick, in the distance the gleaming Korean Veterans Boulevard Bridge lights up in the team color Cardinal red, raising another raucous cheer from the mammoth crowd.

Then, at the appropriate moment, the bridge’s LED lights switch to the scarlet and gold of the San Francisco 49ers with the second pick. And so it goes through 32 picks and illumination changes.

At least that’s one scenario envisioned by Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

“As a special feature during the NFL draft in Nashville, we are attempting to change the lights on the KVB Bridge during Round 1 to team colors as each team makes a player selection,” Spyridon says. “The LED technology makes it easier to change the bridge colors, and we are excited about this possibility.”

NFL executive Matt Shapiro says the league will apply and rely on some of the most innovative technology to deliver a memorable experience to fans.

“As the NFL draft continues to evolve, our need to leverage the latest and greatest technology is integral in creating a memorable experience for our fans both on-site and at home,” adds Shapiro, the NFL’s vice-president for event strategy and integration.

Social media engagement is one obvious use of technology as fans discuss team selections, trades and potential deals.

The 2018 draft was the year-to-date’s second-most discussed sports event on social media platforms, the NFL notes, ranking only behind Super Bowl LII.

That will likely be the case again in 2019 as every team, player and news outlet debates the draft.

Meanwhile, Shapiro says technology’s role will be on full display in Nashville and will go much deeper.

“Technology plays an essential role in the draft in a number of ways,” Shapiro says. “Whether through our Fan Mobile Pass app, the numerous connected screens throughout the entire draft footprint, projection lighting features or the technology needed to keep the actual business of the NFL draft running from Selection Square, the NFL and city of Nashville will work hand-in-hand to ensure a seamless and one-of-a-kind experience for all involved.”

And if all goes as planned, some of the night’s biggest cheers will occur when the Titans make the 19th overall pick and the Korean Veterans Bridge lights up in two-tone blue.

Soccer team embraces tech

Nashville’s new MLS franchise recently used social media to get the word out for a reveal party of the team’s name, crest and colors. Fans were invited to attend for free, the catch being they had to RSVP via an Eventbrite posting on the team’s website.

Some 24 hours after that social media announcement, a raucous crowd estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 roared their approval at the festivities at Marathon Music Works, where it was announced the MLS team will be called Nashville SC.

Team colors are “electric gold and acoustic blue” and the logo has a “sonic vibe” that befits Music City. The team will begin MLS play in 2020 before moving into a brand-new stadium that will be built at Nashville Fairgrounds in 2021.

John Ingram, the team’s majority owner, spoke in general terms when asked about technology fans might see at the new 27,500-seat soccer stadium.

“We kind of came up with our own ideas about what we wanted. MLS was very much on board with it, but we’re also very mindful, we’re very open … we’ll be building the stadium over at the Fairgrounds and there are other users of the Fairgrounds,” Ingram says.

“We have been and I think will continue to be sensitive, good partners with the other users. I mean, right now, before they can even start on the stadium they need to build a new exhibition space for the flea market and Christmas Village. So you know, everything in its right time and its right place. We’re on board with all that.”

And as the reveal party attendance showed, Nashville SC’s rowdy fans are on board, as well.

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