Kansas City is down to the final details of its ambitious effort to host this year’s NFL Draft, an event that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to its main downtown site and other events around the area for three days beginning April 27.
A giant stage is under construction in front of Union Station. Roads are being closed and traffic is being rerouted around downtown. Parks and businesses are being spruced up to impress the expected guests.
Over the last decade, the draft has evolved from a low-key affair to what is called the biggest nonsporting sports event in the nation. Kansas City NFL owners in 2019 chose Kansas City as this year’s host, and organizers such as the Kansas City Sports Commission, Visit KC and City Hall have worked steadily on the logistics ever since.
Now, Kansas Citians are making their own plans to participate in the festivities — or avoid the crowds. The Beacon has prepared answers to some pressing questions that are popping up as draft weekend draws near.
What’s the latest estimate on how many visitors are expected to attend?
About 100,000 visitors are expected to attend the NFL Draft each day of the event, according to Elliott Scott, director of marketing and communications for the Kansas City Sports Commission. In total, organizers anticipate anywhere from 300,000 to 350,000 visitors from across the country traveling to Kansas City. The draft is expected to be the largest sports event in Kansas City’s history.
Where in Kansas City is the NFL Draft?
The heart of draft activity will be located in front of Union Station and on the north and south lawns of the Liberty Memorial.
What exactly will be going on? Can anyone go watch the NFL Draft?
Actual NFL Draft activities, when teams announce their player selections, will take place at the NFL Draft Theater, which will be located in front of Union Station. While close-up seats will be reserved for invited ticket holders, others may be able to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. According to the NFL’s FAQ: “General fan viewing is standing room only and will be on a first-come first-served basis on the North Lawn of the Museum and Memorial.” Draft activities will also be shown on screens all around the grounds.
Other highlights will include the NFL Draft Experience, described as the NFL’s interactive football theme park, and a free concert series. Kansas City Chiefs fans can enjoy the special Chiefs Kingdom Experience, which includes the chance to rush out of a tunnel to the roar of a crowd.
What bands are performing at the concerts at the NFL Draft in Kansas City?
The Jonas Brothers, Fall Out Boy, Motley Crue and Thundercat will headline the 2023 NFL Draft Concert Series.
How to attend the NFL Draft in Kansas City
In order to attend events, visitors will need to download the free NFL OnePass app and abide by all NFL safety and security protocols, including a strict clear bag policy.
“You will have access to the Fan Experience on the south side and the north lawn of the National WWI Museum and Memorial,” Scott said.
Fans can also visit NFL.com/DraftAccess to register, but will need the app to play games at the Fan Experience. NFL OnePass will also have up-to-date information on schedules and program changes.
I live on the fringes of the metro area and will be driving to the draft. What is my best strategy for avoiding crowds and finding parking?
The main pedestrian entry for all fans to access events will be at the intersection of Wyandotte Street and Memorial Drive on the south side of the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
VisitKC has prepared an extensive guide for the best ways to get there, including an interactive map of parking garages.
Planners recommend that fans look for parking near the route of the Kansas City streetcar, which includes the Crossroads Arts District, Central Business District, Crown Center and River Market.
There is also abundant parking near the RideKC Max rapid transit line, which will take visitors to within a short walk of the draft entrance.
A park-and-ride service will operate from the West Bottoms neighborhood; prebooking is required to reserve a seat on the shuttle.
When and how frequently will the KC Streetcar be running?
The KC Streetcar will operate with more frequency and extended hours during the NFL draft. The plan is to have five streetcars in operation Thursday through Saturday, arriving at the designated stops every five to 10 minutes, said Donna Mandelbaum, communications and marketing director of the KC Streetcar Authority.
On Thursday, April 27, and Friday, April 28, the streetcar will operate from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. On Saturday, April 29, streetcar hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The Union Station streetcar stop will be closed to passengers during the draft. The southbound route will end at the Crossroads stop at 19th and Main streets, and northbound service will begin there. All other streetcar stops will remain the same.
Will regular bus service be disrupted by the draft?
As of now, most RideKC buses are expected to operate as usual. The MAX rapid transit line will continue to run through the downtown area. The route will operate along Penn Valley Drive, where passengers can get off at the 29th Street stop, which will be a five-minute walk to the main entrance to draft events. Updates on bus service will come in the following weeks.
Will Amtrak trains stop running through Union Station during the draft?
Amtrak will operate on its normal schedule during the NFL Draft.
Where are all these visitors going to stay?
Hotels and short-term rentals around the area are doing a brisk booking business, and the closer to the action, the higher the prices.
Hotels in the downtown area are reserving rooms for about $500 a night over the period of the draft, although some rooms are available at around $331.
Prices vary for short term rentals in the area, including Airbnb and VRBO, with a few starting below $100 a night but most renting for $250 to $500 a night.
Some rentals close to the draft activities are listed at over $1,000 a night. A “luxury downtown penthouse and private rooftop deck” is listed on VRBO for $3,332 a night. And a one-bed, one-bath studio apartment, advertised as “just steps away from the outdoor excitement,” is listed on Airbnb for $5,500 a night.
Why is Kansas City Public Schools canceling classes while the draft is underway?
Because of the expected influx of visitors and traffic in the heart of the city, which is primarily within KCPS boundaries, district officials have decided a remote learning model on April 27 and 28 would be best for student and operational safety.
Middle and high school students will log in to Microsoft Teams from 9 a.m. to noon to attend class and receive instruction. Work will be assigned on Google Classroom.
Elementary students will bring home instructional packets on Wednesday, April 26, with assignments that will be due the following Monday. Students will have to return their completed packets to receive attendance credit for the two days. Teachers will be available by phone, email or Microsoft Teams to assist students and families on Thursday and Friday mornings.