Quest to hold NFL Draft, and party that comes with it, continues for Kansas City

Recapping the top 10 picks in the NFL Draft

Catch up on the top ten picks from the first round of the NFL Draft.
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Catch up on the top ten picks from the first round of the NFL Draft.

After muddling along in a business-meeting atmosphere for decades in New York, the NFL Draft location has become a personality-driven road show.

This year’s event in Nashville, Tennessee, with its Music City theme, has played to rave reviews. Next year’s site, Las Vegas, figures to offer glitz and glamor.

What flavors can Kansas City promise?

Kathy Nelson, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission, is working on that. And after her trip to Nashville, she’s encouraged about the prospects of bringing the event to the Heartland.

“As I was watching it, I imagined how it would look in Kansas City,” Nelson said. “I’ll say this, Nashville has raised the bar for every future city. But I feel good about what we can do.”

Nelson wouldn’t divulge specific plans. But when Kansas City made its initial bid for the draft in 2018, the city envisioned a stage with Union Station as the backdrop and a mass of humanity stretching toward the Liberty Memorial.

Think Royals World Series victory parade destination in 2015.

That image might continue to be part of the bid. But Nelson has also learned that there is a fluidity to the process.

“The good thing about this bid is it’s not attached to a venue,” Nelson said. “It’s not attached to a street or location. It was interesting to hear how the NFL worked with Nashville about where to set things up — where the setup made the most sense.

“You have to be flexible. The draft fits the city and takes on the flavor and image of the city.”

Kansas City’s barbeque and jazz heritage are obvious selling points and good places to start crafting an image. The NFL has shined a spotlight on the country music and honky-tonk persona that help define Nashville.

“The visuals from Nashville were incredible,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “I can’t help but to watch that and think about it coming to Kansas City. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to bring it to Kansas City in the next four or five years.”

The economic impact figures for Nashville haven’t been calculated, but the draft was estimated to be worth $94 million to Philadelphia in 2017 and $125 million to Dallas last year.

The event attracts more than 100,000 fans. A 2017 post-draft study in Philly determined 63 percent of the fans who attended came from out of town and some 19,000 hotel rooms were filled.

“Fans love to go from other markets to here,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week. “The number of jerseys you see (fans wearing), it reminds me of our international games.”

Nelson said she couldn’t count all the Patrick Mahomes and other Chiefs jerseys she saw in Nashville.

Kansas City was a finalist along with Cleveland when the drafts were awarded to Nashville and Las Vegas.

In Nashville, Nelson said 14 other cities interested in holding the event were represented.

The NFL is looking for host cities beyond 2020 and could fill the calendar through 2024. With Las Vegas already announced as next year’s site, the league doesn’t have to make an announcement on draft locations immediately after this one.

Identifying two years of locations in 2018 was a first for the NFL.

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