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Press Box: Kansas City shines in hosting the NFL Draft

by Trevor Hahn | April 30, 2023 at 1:12 a.m.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes pretends to throw the Vince Lombardi Trophy during Thursday night's first round of the NFL Draft in Kansas City. (Associated Press)

It’s starting to seem pretty common to see Kansas City in the national sports spotlight and it should not be taken for granted.

Growing up in the city of fountains, it was rare for people outside of the Midwest to know anything about Kansas City -- starting with the fact a majority of it is in Missouri and not Kansas.

But during the weekend, K.C. was the center of attention for the football world with the NFL Draft being hosted for three days in downtown Kansas City.

The scenes outside of Union Station all the way up the hill to the World War I Museum showed more than 100,000 people in attendance on Day 1 from not just city residents but football fans from all around the country.

Making the opening night even better, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Prince Anudike-Uzomah with the last pick of the first round out of Kansas State. Anudike-Uzomah grew up in suburb Lee’s Summit and attended Lee’s Summit High School before his college career with the Wildcats.

Seeing a kid get drafted to his hometown team during a draft hosted by the city was a very special moment to watch as Anudike-Uzomah’s family and friends celebrated wildly as he was drafted to the NFL team he grew up cheering for.

The NFL Draft is just the most recent event that has showcased the rapidly growing sports town, as the growth and national spotlight can be mostly attributed to one man: Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs were relevant for many years before the gunslinger from Texas was drafted in 2017, but they were nothing more than a perennial playoff contender that had obvious limitations. Even dating to the 2014 and ’15 World Series appearances for the Royals, there were graphics shown on the Fox broadcast of a fan being shown saying he is from “Blue Springs, Kansas.”

Long story short, even though the Royals made the World Series two years in a row, nationally there was still very little knowledge of Kansas City.

But after Mahomes took over as the No. 1 QB in 2018, everything changed.

The Chiefs were all of a sudden the most talked about team in the NFL, they had a guy who rapidly grew to be the face of the league and they have now hosted five consecutive AFC Championship Games -- an NFL record.

Kansas City had never hosted an AFC title game prior to Mahomes’ first season as the starting quarterback, but it has now become a habit for NFL fans to turn on their TVs in late January and see one of the biggest games of the season hosted at Arrowhead Stadium.

Fast forward two Super Bowl titles and three appearances later, it only felt right for Mahomes and Travis Kelce to be on the stage with the Lombardi Trophy and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as the NFL’s biggest offseason spectacle started Thursday.

The NFL Draft may be the biggest sporting event hosted by Kansas City in the 21st century, but it will not be for long.

On June 16 of last year, FIFA announced its hosting locations across the U.S., Mexico and Canada for the 2026 World Cup and Kansas City made the cut to the surprise of many instead of cities like Denver and Nashville.

Hosting World Cup games will not only bring more national spotlight to K.C. but will showcase the city to the world.

And it is hard to tell where the growth will stop.

The Royals are in the process of trying to get a downtown stadium approved, Kansas City has been avidly pursuing the return of an NBA team and the city is set to open the first-ever women’s-only stadium next year for the NWSL’s Kansas City Current.

K.C. will likely never grow to be one of the biggest or most-known cities in the country, but it has been very cool to see the spotlight continuously shine on the city in recent years.

And the best days are still to come.


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