Indianapolis has hosted the NFL Scouting Combine for the past 34 years, but that streak could soon come to an end. The league has started a bidding process for the event beginning in 2023, with the hopes of turning it into a traveling show much like the draft.
“The League, in concert with the Combine Executive Committee, is considering ways to grow the Combine as a tentpole event, while at the same time enhancing the prospect experience and partnership,” an NFL memo sent to the 32 clubs states.
Team officials, coaches, scouts and medical personnel have convened in Indianapolis to analyze the nation’s top prospects ever since 1987, when a group of executives — among them long-time New England Patriots executive Francis “Bucko” Kilroy — founded the Combine to standardize the scouting process. Since then, it has become a one-week media circus and major event in the NFL offseason.
Now, the league is trying to take advantage of this popularity. While there is a realistic chance the Scouting Combine will move starting in 2023, it will still take place in Indianapolis next spring — and the city is trying to keep it that way in the long run as well.
“As the event has grown, so has the city physically,” Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “This is an event that we have proudly hosted and helped grow along the way, and one we want to viciously protect keeping in Indy beyond 2022. In working with the Colts and local Combine team, Indy will put in another competitive bid to keep this annual event safe and sound in our city.”
Despite Gahl’s optimism, the league memo sends a clear message. In turn, the search for new host cities has begun.
This leads to the natural follow-up question whether or not Boston, Foxborough, or another New England city could be among those hosting the event at one point in the near future.
While nothing can be ruled out, it seems like a long-shot simply based on the lack of suitable venues: the Combine is traditionally held in late February to early March, and as a result will either have to take place indoors or where there is relatively stable weather. New England does not offer any of these things.
The Patriots’ Gillette Stadium, like other football venues across the region, is an outdoor arena. Meanwhile, Boston’s TD Garden or Hartford’s XL Center are not large enough to host the event. A potential soccer-specific arena in downtown Boston, which has been the subject of speculation for much of the 21st century, might be a suitable location but years will pass before such a stadium ever turns into a reality — if it is even built in the first place.
Long story short, New England currently does not have the infrastructure to welcome the Scouting Combine in the near future. That is especially true when comparing it to other potential host cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, Glendale or even St. Louis.