Despite the stress of feeding thousands of people, a propane tank running out, and a fryer overheating — plus paying the vendor fee — KC’s Wing Bar owner Keshia Clark said teaming up with the NFL Draft in April was definitely worth it for her business.
“We saw in three days what one middle class person would make in an entire year,” said Clark. “I was able to get a lot of things done that I needed to get done. I was able to have an air conditioner installed on my truck, as well as have additional funds for payroll.”
KC’s Wing Bar was one of the 25 local vendors chosen to be on-site for the NFL Business Connect program, which brought in $1.12 million in food and nonalcoholic beverage sales, according to final numbers reported Friday by the Kansas City Sports Commission.
“It was a great experience,” Clark added. “It showed me exactly how far I could take my business and what I was capable of.”
Overall, the three-day event — billed as the largest sports event in Kansas City’s history — had a total economic impact of $164.3 million, the KC Sports Commission said.
The figure includes $108.8 million in direct spending and $55.5 million in induced/indirect impact, per data compiled by Visit KC. Of the direct spending, 60 percent was produced through accommodations, 18 percent through food and beverage, 8 percent through business services, 6 percent through transportation and approximately 4 percent through retail and recreation. Additionally, 53,000 jobs were supported with a full-time equivalency (FTE) of 1,100, the KC Sports Commission reported.
The Draft appeared to outscore related expectations, with local and NFL officials having projected $102.1 million in direct spending in the runup to the event — more than $6 million less than what was reported Friday.
“The resounding success of the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City proved once again what our community has known for some time: Kansas City is the nation’s premier sports city,” said Quinton Lucas, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. “This year’s Draft exceeded expectations with a local economic impact of nearly $165 million and the highest household viewership ranking since 2015 from a global audience, thanks in part to surprise guest appearances from our World Champion Kansas City Chiefs.”
In early 2023, KCMO leaders approved about $3 million in additional taxpayer funds to go toward costs associated with the event.
The NFL Draft — which produced a projected $11.2 million in local taxes and $4.8 million in state taxes, the number showed — drew 300,000 attendees and Clark said the on-site vendors were extremely busy throughout the event.
“As soon as we would open our windows in the morning there would be people — employees of the Draft, residents, visitors from out of town, etc. — strolling in to order,” she noted. “Our line stayed full throughout the entire draft experience.”
“Now that I have done this particular event, I feel I am ready to take on anything,” she added.
Not all small business owners were as bullish on the Draft’s economic impact during the event and the days after. Many vendors and ventures outside the immediate NFL Draft grounds reported sluggish traffic and sales — and voiced a disconnect between local entrepreneurs, the city and NFL.
Multiple Kansas City business owners told Startland News high vendor fees to participate in sales on the NFL Draft grounds were a specific and insurmountable barrier to entry. Inquiries directed to the NFL Business Connect program — which initially sought to connect 100 local, diverse businesses to the Draft — by Startland News went unanswered.
Within weeks of the Draft, KCMO announced a new small business task force committed to giving space for Kansas City entrepreneurs to share their voices — on issues ranging from major events like the NFL Draft to everyday concerns on permits and zoning.
City and regional officials — as well as the KC Sports Commission and Visit KC — are now looking ahead to the 2026 World Cup, which is expected to be another historic sports event, six-to seven times larger than the NFL Draft.
On top of the economic impact and lessons from the 2023 Draft, the KC Sports Commission boasted heavy exposure for Kansas City during the three days in April when all eyes were on the City of Fountains.
TV viewership — 54.4 million viewers — and community engagement — the most engaging and viewed draft on NFL social media of all time — were a big victory for Kansas City, said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Visit KC.
“As a community, we cannot underestimate the impact of tens of millions of people learning about Kansas City through this event,” said Nelson. “Whether someone chooses to come with friends for a visit or relocates their family here, our businesses — large and small — continue seeing unprecedented opportunity from Kansas City’s reputation as a welcoming and dynamic destination.”