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Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey talks hosting 2026 NFL Draft: "We are a football city."

Ganey talks about hosting the 2026 NFL Draft
Gainey talks about hosting the 2026 NFL Draft 03:28

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Mayor Ed Gainey is predicting a million people will attend the 2026 NFL Draft in Pittsburgh.

He spoke one-on-one with KDKA-TV hours after being joined by Governor Josh Shapiro and Steelers owner Art Rooney at an Acrisure Stadium press conference.

Speaking directly with KDKA, we asked the mayor about the impact the draft will have on the city, what he's learned from past drafts.

"Today is a great day," Gainey said. "It's extremely exciting. I think it's great for the city."

Bringing the draft to Pittsburgh has been Gainey's dream for some time. He's made it a priority, he said, sharing he brought the idea to Art Rooney during their first meeting after Gainey took office. Gainey said the Steelers have six Super Bowl Titles, and are due to host a draft.

Gainey has watched the growth of the draft from an event inside of Radio City Music Hall to the massive outdoor event that travels to a new city each year.

"I think it explains the phenomenon of football in this nation and in this city, we are a football city we are a football county, we are a football region," Gainey said.

It's part of the reason he is predicting the 2026 Draft will be the biggest-ever. He thinks it could be especially popular for Pittsburgh natives who have moved away.

"This will give people the opportunity to come back and see the new Pittsburgh, see the new city, see how we are doing things nowadays," Gainey said.

He thinks they'll be impressed.

Also helping attendance reach those new heights is the proximity of Pittsburgh to other NFL cities, he said. 

Asked by KDKA what he learned from his trip to the NFL Draft in Detroit, Gainey said collaboration with public safety services is critical. 

NFL Draft Football
Crowds fill an area outside of the draft stage during the second round of the NFL football draft, Friday, April 26, 2024, in Detroit. Carlos Osorio / AP

That goes along with making people can move around without human gridlock.

"I think going there and and listening to them having it in downtown and the impact it had for businesses inside the city was critical for me to hear and know," Gainey said.

We asked Gainey about if the city made any commitments to the NFL to land the draft.

He responded saying everyone involved has been able to talk about the services they would deliver. 

When pressed for specific, Gainey said it's something that could be discussed later.

The NFL did not require any tax breaks or incentives for the draft, Gainey told KDKA.

Gainey said the NFL is working out any logistical commitments they'd be making with the city.

Governor Shapiro said at the press conference earlier in the day that Pittsburgh would have the state's support.

"The commonwealth will make the investment," Shapiro said. "We're prepared to make this an awesome experience for everybody.

The 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit brought 775,000 people to the city over the course of 3 days. Gainey said Pittsburgh can hit a million.

Visit Pittsburgh told KDKA last year that Allegheny County has 18,000 hotel rooms. 

When we told the mayor about that figure, and asked if the city has the space for the million people he predicts will attend the draft, Gainey said he believes we do.

When pressed to learn where, Gainey said he doesn't know if the 18,000 number includes Airbnbs. In addition he said he does not know if it includes the instances where people stay with family members.

He said counties around Pittsburgh, like Westmoreland, Washington, and Butler counties will all benefit as a lot of people will stay in hotels outside Allegheny County. 

"As long as they are close they will stay at those hotels," Gainey said.  

During the early afternoon press conference, Visit Pittsburgh CEO Jerad Bachar said the NFL has spent a considerable amount of time in Pittsburgh figuring out logistics.

"They're satisfied with everything that we have on offer, including the number of hotel rooms," Bachar said.

Gainey said there is a lot of work ahead, but it will all be worth it.

"It's all city, it's all football, it's all team. Let's go get it," Gainey said. 

We also asked the mayor about the specific location of the draft stage and how Point State Park would be used. 

He said the NFL hasn't finalized those details yet so they don't have anything they can share. 

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