PHOENIX — At the strike of 5:30 p.m. in Kansas City on Wednesday, it will be 96 hours until the kickoff for Super Bowl LVII but it’s also a mere 78 days until commissioner Roger Goodell opens the 2023 NFL Draft.
He’s looking forward to the show, plus “great barbecue.”
“I can’t wait,” Goodell said during his Super Bowl press conference on Wednesday. “One of my favorite things is coming to a Kansas City game and opening the windows coming in and smelling that barbecue. It’s the best.”
But the NFL Draft won’t be about barbecue — at least not entirely. When the NFL made the decision to turn the draft into a roadshow starting with the 2015 Draft in Chicago, it opened up new opportunities for both the league and the host cities.
“I always say that moving the draft around was one of our more significant moves because again it brought the game closer to our fans,” Goodell said. “It’s another way for them to interact with one of our events. Kansas City is going to be a great host but the key for them is to do it Kansas City style.”
Kansas City is putting its stamp on the draft by hosting the three-day extravaganza at Union Station and the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit KC are promoting the city and its draft plans with a booth at the NFL Media Center outside media row. Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the Sports Commission and Visit KC, will be in Phoenix on Friday to meet with reporters and unveil more plans for the draft weekend.
The commission aims to connect the draft with Kansas City’s history and culture, exposing a worldwide audience to what the city has to offer. Chiefs fans are also expected to play a key role in the event. The NFL reported more than 300,000 people attended last year’s draft in Las Vegas.
“I think every city that has the opportunity to host this has to look at it as how can they make this reflect on their community in a positive way to millions of people all over the nation as well as the globe and how do you use this platform to advance their communities and their passion in their communities,” Goodell said. “And Kansas City’s got credible, passionate fans and a great community.”
The key fan component will be the NFL Draft Experience, an urban football theme park allowing fans to test their football skills, visit interactive exhibits and get autographs from some of their favorite players. The Vince Lombardi Trophy — which the Chiefs hope to grasp on Sunday — will be available for photo opportunities with fans.
While there will be some VIP components, the NFL Draft Experience will be a free public event running April 27-29. Fans must download the NFL OnePass app to register.
Goodell expects the draft to be a big hit in Kansas City.
“I have no doubt — and I’ve heard a lot of the plans but obviously we’ll focus on that in the next couple of months — that they’re going to do an extraordinary job and the fans that will be coming into town will get a little better understanding of that passion in Kansas City, and I think that’s great for our event but it’s also great for football,” Goodell said.