Scoring the 2026 NFL draft is a major win for Pittsburgh and will likely be the biggest event the city has ever hosted, enthusiastic local leaders said at a formal announcement Thursday at Acrisure Stadium.

Officials touted the three-day celebration as an opportunity to attract visitors, bolster the local economy and put Pittsburgh in a national spotlight.

The NFL awarded the 2026 draft to Pittsburgh on Wednesday at the league’s two-day spring meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The news was met with enthusiasm from local leaders, as well as North Shore businesses, which expect to see major crowds descend on the area for the NFL’s marquee offseason event.

Donning a Steelers hat, Gov. Josh Shapiro said the city is the “absolute best choice to host the NFL draft.”

“We have got it all,” he said, highlighting Acrisure Stadium, Point State Park and the views of the city from Mt. Washington.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey predicted that more than a million people — waving Terrible Towels and chanting for the Steelers — would descend on the city, whose strong sports heritage he noted.

“We are the city of champions,” Gainey said.

The 2026 draft, Shapiro said, is expected to be the largest event Pittsburgh ever has hosted.

“We are going to see our restaurants packed, our bars overflowing,” Shapiro said. “Every single hotel room is going to be booked.”

Pennsylvania will become the first state to host the draft in two different cities, Shapiro said. Philadelphia hosted the 2017 draft, which drew nearly a quarter-million fans.

“This is going to do even better in terms of numbers than Philadelphia did,” the governor said.

Typically held in the final week of April, the draft is expected to incorporate elements of Point State Park and Acrisure Stadium. The draft itself will be hosted on a main stage outside the North Shore stadium and will spill toward PNC Park and Downtown.

Plans have not been finalized, Steelers President Art Rooney II said, but he added that there will be a “major” event on the final day of the draft. Rooney did not provide details.

Gainey said he already visited Detroit to meet with officials there to discuss plans for the draft.

Pittsburgh leaders are still working out details, he said, but they’ve already been meeting to discuss public safety plans and logistics.

Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, a former Steelers intern, said the draft is an opportunity “to showcase what the people of Allegheny County have to offer, to provide a first-class experience for fans from everywhere across the globe and to highlight how sports unite us and inspire our communities.”

Rooney said Pittsburgh’s legacy as a football city and the local support for the event are among the reasons the city makes an ideal backdrop for the draft.

“We’re so excited about hosting the draft for a lot of reasons,” Rooney said. “We think Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania really are where the roots of pro football began.”

The Allegheny Athletics team, he said, played on the North Shore and was among the first teams to pay its players — sometimes under the table — making it among the first pro football teams in the nation.

Jerad Bachar, president and CEO of local tourism agency VisitPittsburgh, said Allegheny County last year hosted more than 20 million visitors, who generated about $6.4 million in economic benefit for local businesses.

“And the NFL Draft is going to drive that number even further,” he said.

The draft, he said, is “one of the most iconic sporting events anywhere in the country,” with about 50 million viewers watching on television and about $120 million to $165 million in economic impact generated each year.

“The NFL is very satisfied with what we have to offer,” Bachar said.

Local leaders, he said, are confident the city can handle the influx of visitors. The Downtown area, he said, has over 6,000 hotel rooms, and local officials and business leaders are ready to help the event run smoothly.

So far, Shapiro said, the Steelers have not asked for any public money to support the event. He said the commonwealth is “prepared to step up to ensure that this event goes off great” if public dollars and support are requested.

Rooney said he anticipates local businesses will chip in to cover expenses related to the draft.

While the draft is sure to spark excitement among football fans, it also benefits people who don’t consider themselves big sports fans, Bachar said.

The “jolt to our local economy” will be good for everyone, he said.

While the draft will have a major impact on Pittsburgh, Bachar said, Pittsburgh will also play a major role in the lives of the rising football stars looking to make it to the NFL.

“At this very moment, rising stars are dreaming of their name being called — right here in the city of champions,” Bachar said.

Julia Felton is a TribLive reporter covering Pittsburgh City Hall and other news in and around Pittsburgh. A La Roche University graduate, she joined the Trib in 2020. She can be reached at