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NFL to move Draft

League will not hold event at MSG because of Jets tiff

Posted: Wednesday February 9, 2005 3:44PM; Updated: Wednesday February 9, 2005 4:22PM
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The NFL Draft has been held at the Paramount Theater since 1995.
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

After years of conducting its nationally televised two-day college draft from Madison Square Garden's Paramount Theater, the NFL will move the event this year due to its ongoing dispute with the Dolan family, which owns MSG and has emerged as the most vocal opponent of a new stadium for the New York Jets on the west side of Manhattan.

Two league sources confirmed to SI.com that the draft will in all likelihood be held April 23-24 at the nearby Jacob Javits Convention Center, which is adjacent to the site on which the Jets hope to occupy the $1.4 billion West Side stadium starting in 2009.

In moving the draft away from the Garden -- its home since 1995 -- the league is playing hardball with the Dolan family, which is opposing the Jets new stadium because it fears the facility could draw premier events away from its historic venue in mid-town Manhattan.

"They're fighting one of our owners (Jets owner Woody Johnson),'' said a league source. "We've got to move it. It's a matter of who do you side with? We're definitely not going back to the Garden.''

Besides the Javits Center, the NFL's special-events department also investigated moving the draft to the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, as well as sites in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. But the Javits Center emerged as the leading candidate to land the event, largely because NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue expressed a strong desire to keep the draft in New York, where it has been held since 1965.

While the league has yet to sign a contract with the Javits Center for the draft, sources say the first item of business for incoming NFL vice president of special events Frank Supovitz will be to finalize the deal with the venue. Supovitz is replacing longtime the league's longtime head of special events, Jim Steeg, who left the NFL after this year's Super Bowl to become the San Diego Chargers' chief operating officer.

Last week, the fight between the Dolan family and the NFL grew even more contentious when MSG announced that it was offering $600 million for the 2 million square foot tract of Metropolitan Transportation Authority-owned land that the city has targeted for the Jets' new stadium, which is the centerpiece of New York's bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

"It's getting ugly,'' said the league source. "The Dolans are trying everything they can to keep the Garden from losing all those big events that would wind up at the new stadium.''