PIT’s New Terminal to Help Showcase Region for ’26 NFL Draft

Thousands of football fans will pass through state-of-the-art new terminal for 2026 NFL draft

By Eric Heyl

Published June 24, 2024

Read Time: 2 mins


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In 2026, Pittsburgh will host an extravaganza that has evolved into what arguably is professional football’s second-biggest annual attraction after the Super Bowl: the NFL Draft.

An estimated 775,000 people packed Detroit when the draft was held there in April, a record number. Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey has predicted draft attendance will top one million here, a year after the event is held in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“The three-day NFL Draft is expected to draw representatives from all 32 NFL teams, along with top player prospects from the premier NCAA football conferences in the nation, plus hundreds of thousands of supporters and superfans,” said Jerad Bachar, president and CEO of the regional tourism agency VisitPITTSBURGH.

“While we don’t know the exact revenue figures, we’re aware that the economic impact of previous draft destinations has ranged between $120 million to upwards of $165 million.”

Airports in Detroit and Kansas City – which hosted the draft last year – both welcomed football fans who flew in with special signs and banners, as well as live performances from local musicians.

Detroit Metro Airport also played a role in the NFL DCLEATED charity auction, which involved 20 fabricated, colossal-sized football cleats placed in various locations in and around the city to attract the attention of potential bidders.

“They had local artists paint and design the cleats in collaboration with local charities,” airport spokesman Randy Wimbley said. “We had two of them on display here – one in each terminal. They both attracted a lot of attention.”

New terminal on the clock

When Pittsburgh hosts the draft, it will be in a situation similar to the one Kansas City faced last year.

Pittsburgh International Airport will open its new terminal next year as the draft approaches. Kansas City debuted its new 50-gate, $1.5 billion terminal in February 2023, just two months before the draft.

“We know our airport is the front door to the community and we wish to make the first and last impression the best possible,” said Kansas City Aviation Director Melissa Cooper.

“Much of our focus (for the draft) was cleanliness and condition at our new terminal and throughout the grounds, as well as adequate staffing in all customer-facing operations. We closely coordinated with airlines, tenants, custodial, traffic control and other front-line entities to ensure staffing coverage.”

Bachar believes the timing of PIT’s new $1.57 billion terminal could not be better as Pittsburgh prepares for what likely will be the largest event in its history.

“Pittsburgh International Airport’s highly anticipated terminal modernization program will be key to accommodating, and impressing, the influx of visitors traveling to experience the NFL Draft in the City of Champions.

“We know the state-of-the-art terminal will set the tone for the unparalleled, memorable events of the draft,” he said.

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