This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon.
The football excitement in Kansas City won’t end once the confetti is blown following the Chiefs’ victory parade on Wednesday.
In just over two months, Kansas City will host the 2023 National Football League Draft, an extravagant spectacle that organizers say will draw more visitors than any other event in the city’s history.
The three-day event, April 27-29, 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 will draw fans from across the nation, as well as around-the-clock media attention as teams select the best players to emerge from colleges.
The Kansas City Sports Commission coordinated with the NFL, City Hall and other offices to plan activities for the 2023 draft. With their help, The Beacon prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about the glitzy upcoming event.
How many people can we expect and where do they come from?
Organizers said up to 350,000 people from around the country will travel to Kansas City for the project, but that may be an undercount; more than 600,000 fans attended the events in Nashville in 2019. More than 10 million people tuned into television 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 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia.
In 1980, the league began televising acts from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The project moved to Chicago in 2015 and has since become a coveted event for the cities. Kansas City was selected in 2019 to host the event this year.
What does Kansas City get out of the draft?
A great deal, says Elliott Scott, director of marketing and communications for the Kansas City Sports Commission.
“The economic impact of an event of this size is substantial and will prudently bring tens of millions of dollars to Kansas City,” Scott said in an email to The Beacon.
Kansas City and the NFL estimate the event will bring about $102.1 million in direct spending to the city’s economy.
Which local businesses will benefit from the three-day event?
Hotels, restaurants and shops throughout metropolitan Kansas City 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 different companies that have worked on major events with possible opportunities to provide goods and services for the draft. The program, which requires businesses to be 51 percent owned by a minority, female, veteran or LGBTQ+ individual, will provide participants with networking and development opportunities.
“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 project?
The arrival of more than 350,000 people in downtown Kansas City will have a substantial impact on local businesses.
“All of our retailers and businesses are gearing up and can’t wait,” said Sean O’Byrne, vice president of Downtown Council.
“New restaurants are on the way and the city is working with them to make sure they are up and ready to go. Hotels are also gearing up and trying to increase business in general,” she said.
Ambassadors from the Downtown Community Improvement District, which provides safety, cleaning and promotion services to the area, are also preparing for draft weekend.
Where will all these out of town visitors stay?
Visitors are expected to stay at Metro hotels and places like Airbnb and other short-term rentals.
We’re talking thousands of people crowding an area with limited parking. What are the plans to bring people to the event?
“Overall, we have been working with the NFL since August 2022,” said Chuck Ferguson, chief operating officer of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, in an email response.
The NFL will direct the logistics such as plans, maps and schedules, and RideKC, the bus service, will adjust the routes accordingly.
“… Our agency’s role will focus on what we do best – fixed route transit,” said Ferguson. He said the Main MAX bus, which runs in and around downtown to the Plaza, Brookside and Waldo, will operate more frequently during the events.
How will the KC Streetcar handle the NFL draft?
The tram will continue to run its route downtown throughout the project.
“We are still working on our operational plans and will have more information to share with the public as the NFL Draft dates approach,” said Donna Mandelbaum, director of communications and marketing for the KC Streetcar Authority.
Who pays for crowd control, cleaning and other services?
On Jan. 19, the Kansas City Council approved an ordinance agreeing to spend up to $3 million to ensure the draft goes smoothly. The money will come from the Convention and Tourism Fund.
In addition, the Sports Commission is raising funds by offering sponsorship packages totaling $1.5 million, Kimiko Black Gilmore, director of city entertainment and convention facilities, told The Beacon.
“These funds will be used for security, rents, personnel, information technology and transportation,” he said. “The city’s public works department will be responsible for the 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 for fans.
The draft will also include a series of concerts that non-football fans will be able to enjoy, according to the sports commission. And locals don’t need to wait for news of draft picks to appreciate the prospect of downtown Kansas City alive with people, music and fun.
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