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Nick’s Picks | All You Need to Know About the NFL Draft 300,000 Expected to Attend

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)
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5 minute read

If you get anxious around large crowds, you may want to avoid downtown this week. 

The NFL Draft begins Thursday.  

With upwards of 300,000 people expected to attend the three-day televised event, it’s going to be challenging to move around parts of the city.  

You should know that more than a mile of Main Street has already been closed and seven miles of barricades and metal fencing now encircles Union Station and the grounds of Liberty Memorial. That’s where most of the NFL Draft events take place. 

Sensing the disruption, Kansas City Public Schools has canceled all in-person classes on Thursday and Friday, and some area businesses are telling their employees to work from home. 

Work continued on the main stage for the NFL Draft Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Union Station.
Work continued on the main stage for the NFL Draft Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Union Station. The draft will run from April 27-29. (AP Photo | Charlie Riedel)

NFL Draft Schedule

The NFL Draft will be broadcast live from Union Station:  

Thursday, April 27, 7 p.m.  

Friday, April 28, 6 p.m.  

Saturday April 29, 11 a.m. 

Music will be a big part of the NFL Draft in Kansas City. There are free concerts immediately following each night’s broadcast.  

Rock band Fall Out Boy will take the stage outside of Union Station after Round 1 on Thursday.  

Mötley Crüe will headline Day 2 on Friday.  

And Grammy-winning bassist and vocalist Thundercat will close out the 2023 Draft Concert Series on Saturday.  

Not all events happen at night. 

The NFL Experience

Opening at noon on Thursday is The NFL Experience, a giant interactive football-themed playground where fans can show off their skills. Some of the NFL’s top players will also be hosting free autograph sessions and you can take selfies with the Chiefs’ three Super Bowl trophies. 

Another big exhibit features all 56 Super Bowl rings. 

Here are The NFL Experience hours:

Thursday, Noon—10 p.m.  

Friday, Noon—10 p.m. 

Saturday, 9 a.m.—6 p.m.  

While all events are free, fans must sign up in advance on an NFL app and show their digital pass at a security gate to gain access.  

Kelce Jams 

The NFL Draft will also bring with it a lot of celebrity sightings and other wrap-around events. 

On Wednesday night, Travis Kelce and his brother Jason will host a live recording of their podcast, “New Heights” at the Kansas City Music Hall. 

Then on Friday, Travis Kelce hosts his first music festival, the Kelce Jam

Machine Gun Kelly will headline the show at Azura Amphitheater. Tech N9ne, Rick Ross and Loud Luxury are among those scheduled to appear at the event. Don’t be surprised to see more than a few NFL players join them on stage. Kelce says he’s ready for one final Super Bowl celebration before turning his attention to next season. 

Also appearing right in the middle of the NFL Draft is actor and comedian Rob Schneider. 

He brings the “I Have Issues Tour” to the Folly Theater on the NFL Draft’s opening night on Thursday. 

3 Big Questions 

Now that the NFL Draft is finally getting underway, here are three lingering questions about the big event: 

Airport: Can the new Kansas City International Airport terminal handle the massive influx of new visitors? 

Former Chiefs offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz is skeptical. He thinks it’s going to be “an absolute zoo.”  In a social media post, Schwartz says he endured “a half-mile long line waiting in standstill traffic to enter the airport” just last week.  

Crowds: Will Kansas City get the expected 300,000 visitors? 

To attend any of the official events, you need to sign up on the NFL’s free OnePass app. The latest reports say around 100,000 people have registered. That means there must be many procrastinators signing on in the next 48 hours to reach the city’s ambitious visitor projections.  

Last year in Las Vegas, the draft drew an estimated 300,000 fans. An estimated 600,000 attended the NFL Draft in Nashville. 

Protests: Will protests spoil Kansas City’s big party? 

Kansas City has been craving this moment in the national spotlight to showcase a “city on the move.” But could that carefully crafted storyline be derailed by social justice protests over the recent shooting of a 16-year-old Black teen who rang the wrong doorbell in the Northland?  

And what impact will a new boycott of Bud Light have on Kansas City’s big event?  

The beer brand is the draft’s presenting sponsor. If you haven’t been following the story, you should know that several conservative groups are urging fans to boycott the NFL Draft after Bud Light made transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney a brand ambassador. Bloomberg reports that the move is already hurting the brewers’ bottom line. Now the company is getting bomb threats. Will the boycott depress the turnout in Kansas City? It’s most certainly ratcheting up security concerns. 

Also worth watching while the nation’s TV cameras are in Kansas City is a new effort by Native American groups to put the squeeze on the Chiefs to change the team’s name. 

Last Week, Reviewed

City Hall on Hold 

The NFL Draft will disrupt a lot of normal life in Kansas City, including big decisions at City Hall. 

This week’s Kansas City Council session has been canceled. 

That’s good news for City Manager Brian Platt, who’s now facing a “no-confidence vote” in his leadership. 

It also means no decisions will be made about Mayor Quinton Lucas’s big election change plan.  

Lucas announced last week that he wants to cut back on the number of Kansas City elections and even change when voting takes place. He’s proposed deciding local races at the same time you vote for your members of congress. That means primaries in August and general elections in November in even-numbered years. 

Transgender Restrictions  

This week Missouri is expected to become the first state in the nation to restrict transgender medical procedures for both children and adults.  

New state Attorney General Andrew Bailey has invoked an emergency rule set to go into effect on Thursday that will require trans patients to receive 18 months of mental health counseling before they can receive puberty-blocking drugs, hormones or surgeries. 

Transgender rights advocates have vowed to challenge the rule in court. 

Kansas Veto Session 

After taking a three-week break, Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka today to start their annual veto session. 

They’ve got a lot on their plates. In the last week, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two abortion-related measures and four bills aimed at regulating the lives of transgender Kansans. She also vetoed a new Republican crafted “flat tax” proposal. 

Legislative leaders in the Kansas House and Senate say they will hold votes this week to override all vetoes. 

Biden Candidacy 

In national news of note, President Joe Biden is expected to officially launch his reelection campaign this week.  

Biden’s team is reportedly eyeing a video launch on Tuesday, which would coincide with the four-year anniversary of his 2020 bid.  

Bed Bath & Bankruptcy  

You have two days to remember where you hoarded your 20% off Bed Bath & Beyond coupons.  

The retailer will stop accepting its famous coupons on Wednesday. 

After limping along in poor financial health for years, the company has announced plans to close its 360 stores, including its 10 locations in Kansas and Missouri. 

A going-out-of-business sale will start later this week. 

Oak Park Circus 

Could the circus be the salvation to America’s struggling shopping malls? 

Traditionally held in big downtown arenas, one of the country’s largest circuses is now taking up residency at Oak Park Mall.  

The Garden Bros Nuclear Circus calls itself the “world’s largest circus under the biggest big top on earth.” Since the collapse of Barnum and Bailey in 2017, it is the largest touring circus in the country. 

Call it counter programming to the NFL Draft, but the first show is this Thursday at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park. There’ll be no NFL stars on stage, but plenty of daredevils, contortionists and clowns. 

Nick Haines tracks the week’s most impactful local news stories on “Kansas City Week in Review,” Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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