News Briefs

The NFL Draft is coming to Kansas City in April, along with thousands of visitors

By: - February 13, 2023 4:57 pm

Patrick Mahomes throws pass against the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 23, 2022 (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images).

This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon

Football excitement in Kansas City won’t be over once the confetti gets vacuumed up after the Chiefs victory parade on Wednesday.

In a little more than two months, Kansas City will host the 2023 National Football League Draft, an extravaganza that organizers predict will draw more visitors than any single event in the city’s history.

The three-day event, from April 27 to April 29, will take place in the area around Union Station and the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Described as “the NFL’s interactive football theme park,” the event is expected to draw fans from around the nation, as well as round-the-clock media attention as teams select the best players to emerge from colleges.

The Kansas City Sports Commission has been coordinating with the NFL, City Hall and other offices to plan the 2023 draft activities. With their help, The Beacon has prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about the glitzy upcoming event.

How many people can we expect and where are they coming from? 

Organizers have said that up to 350,000 people from around the country will be arriving in Kansas City for the draft, But that might be an underestimate; more than 600,000 fans participated in events in Nashville in 2019. More than 10 million people tuned into TV networks to watch the draft in Las Vegas last year, and that was considered an underwhelming audience.

How did KC come to host the NFL draft? 

The first NFL Draft was a low-key affair in 1936 in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia.

In 1980, the league began televising the proceedings from  Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The draft moved to Chicago in 2015 and has become a coveted event for cities ever since. Kansas City was selected in 2019 to host the event this year.

What does Kansas City stand to gain from the draft? 

A great deal, says Elliott Scott, director of marketing and communications for the Kansas City Sports Commission.

“The economic impact from an event of this scale is considerable and will conservatively bring in tens of millions of dollars to Kansas City,” Scott said in an email to The Beacon.

Kansas City and the NFL estimate that the event will bring in approximately $102.1 million in direct spending towards the city’s economy.

What local businesses will benefit from the three-day event? 

Hotels, restaurants and shops across the Kansas City metro will benefit from the increased number of tourists.

The NFL has partnered with the sports commission to create the Business Connect Program, which will provide 100 diverse businesses that have worked on large events with possible opportunities to provide goods and services for the draft. The program, which requires the businesses to be 51% owned by a minority, woman, veteran or LGBTQ+ individual, will also provide participants with networking and development opportunities.

“The Kansas City companies used by the NFL through the Business Connect Program receive compensation as a result of their work,” Scott said.

How is downtown Kansas City preparing for the draft?

The arrival of 350,000-plus people to Kansas City’s downtown will have a substantial impact on local business.

“All of our retailers and businesses are gearing up and looking forward to it,” said Sean O’Byrne, the vice president of the Downtown Council.

“New restaurants are coming in and the city’s been working with them to make sure they are set and ready to go. Hotels are also gearing up and looking to increase business overall,” he said.

Ambassadors for the Downtown Community Improvement District, which provides security, cleaning and promotional services to the area, are also preparing for draft weekend.

Where are all of these out-of-town visitors going to stay? 

Visitors are expected to stay in hotels across the metro and venues such as Airbnb and other short-term rentals.

We’re talking about thousands of people flocking to an area with limited parking. What are the plans for getting people to the event?

“Overall, we’ve been working with the NFL since August 2022,” Chuck Ferguson, the chief operating officer of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, said in an email response.

The NFL will be directing  logistics such as plans, maps and schedules, and RideKC, the bus service, will adjust routes accordingly.

“… The role of our agency will be focused on what we do best: fixed route transit,” Ferguson said. He said the Main MAX bus, which runs from and around downtown to the Plaza, Brookside and Waldo, will run more frequently during the events.

How will the KC Streetcar handle the NFL draft?

The streetcar will continue operating its downtown route throughout the draft.

“We are still working on our operational plans and will have more information to share with the public as the NFL Draft dates get closer,” said Donna Mandelbaum, the communications and marketing director of KC Streetcar Authority.

Who is paying for crowd control, cleanup and other services?

On Jan. 19, the Kansas City Council approved an ordinance agreeing to spend up to $3 million to make sure the draft goes smoothly. The money will come from the Convention and Tourism Fund.

Also, the Sports Commission is raising funds by offering sponsorship packages totaling $1.5 million, Kimiko Black Gilmore, the city’s convention and entertainment facilities director, told The Beacon.

“These funds will be used for security, rental fees, staffing, information technology and transportation,” she said.  “The city’s Public Works Department will be responsible for cleanup.”

I don’t follow professional football. What’s in this event for me?

The NFL Draft Experience will feature interactive exhibits, exclusive merchandise and autograph sessions. The festivities are free to fans.

The draft will also include a concert series that nonfootball fans can enjoy, according to the sports commission.  And locals don’t need to await news of the draft picks to appreciate the prospect of downtown Kansas City alive with people, music and fun.

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Mili Mansaray
Mili Mansaray

Mili Mansaray is the housing and labor reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. Previously, she was a freelance reporter and Summer 2020 intern.