Kansas City officially fell out of the running to play host to the 2019 NFL Draft on Wednesday, but hope remains among those behind the bid that the 2020 Draft is still in play.
The NFL will stage the 2019 Draft in Nashville, the league announced at its annual owners meetings in Atlanta. The Cleveland/Canton area is believed to be the favorite for 2020, but no decision will be announced this week, NFL officials said.
The 2020 NFL Draft will commemorate the league's 100th year in business. Besides Kansas City and the Ohio site, Las Vegas is under consideration. Denver had been in the running for 2019 but isn't an option for 2020.
Chiefs president and CEO Mark Donovan, who recently made a presentation to league officials in New York with Kathy Nelson of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation and city manager Troy Schulte, was not surprised Nashville won for 2019.
"We've been working very closely with the league and event committee at the league on this," Donovan said. "Kathy Nelson and the crew on the Kansas City Sports Commission has represented us and our city well. Troy Schulte and the mayor's office have been very supportive.
"We were asked if we had a preference on 2019 or 2020, and we said that we were prepared to host either year. But we told them if we had our preference, it would be 2020. Nashville deserves some congratulations for 2019. And we are excited for 2020."
Donovan and Nelson are confident in their chances of bringing the draft to Kansas City in two years.
"We will continue the fight for the opportunity to host the draft," said Nelson, who was spending the week in Kansas City while Donovan and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt were in Atlanta. "It could be a great win for the city and region."
From 1965 through 2014, the NFL Draft was held in New York City. Radio City Music Hall was the site of the draft from 2006-14.
Since 2015, the draft has moved to different cities on a year-by-year basis. Chicago was first and had an estimated attendance of 200,000. That draft went so well that Chicago repeated as host city in 2016. Philadelphia played host in 2017, drawing $56.1 million in direct visitor spending and welcoming about 250,000 fans.
Dallas hosted the most recent draft last month. The final numbers haven't been tabulated, but Stephen Jones, executive vice president, CEO and director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, said it was a worthwhile endeavor for both city and team.
"It made a huge impact in our community. Even larger than we expected," Jones said. "Our fans embraced it. We were amazed. It was on everybody's mind for the two weeks leading up to it and the weekend. I think every team should have an opportunity at hosting. It really brings a community together."
Like Donovan, Nelson is prepared to keep the bid going for 2020. A final decision might not be reached until next year's owners meetings.
"It says a lot about us that we are in the conversation for such a big event," Nelson said. "We have a lot to offer. We suggested that using Union Station and Crown Center could make for a footprint similar to how Chicago or Philadelphia hosted the draft. Kansas City offers a central location that will allow fans from several markets easy access to drive in."
Access is a big selling point to the NFL. Philadelphia reported filling 18,991 hotel-room nights, and more than 63 percent of the draft's attendees were from out of town.
Nelson believes Kansas City can provide a great experience.
"We are prepared," Nelson said. "We already have a large segment of rooms blocked off for the weekend. We also offer unique military engagement opportunities with the World War I Museum. The Kauffman Center can be used for VIP events. We have several buildings reserved for the draft and events surrounding the weekend. Our city offers several advantages."
Donovan elaborated on those advantages.
"The biggest advantage is having the value of a concentrated urban venue that has built-in traffic," Donovan said. "Union Station and the city, with all the unique things we are going to do, bring give us confidence that we are very much in the running."
Donovan knows financial impact the draft can bring. He also believes the coverage that comes with it would help fans across the country see Kansas City in a new light.
"It's our responsibility as a resident of Kansas City to continue to create opportunities to put our town on a national and international stage," Donovan said. "In addition to the awareness, there is a huge economic impact.
"This event brings an enormous amount of traffic. An enormous amount of people into the city. Some for the first time. They'll be experiencing our city and restaurants. That's huge, and this is the type of vision that (Chiefs founder and NFL pioneer) Lamar (Hunt) had when he brought this team to Kansas City."
A source close to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the race for 2020 will be extremely tight to the end but acknowledged that the Cleveland/Canton bid holds a slight advantage.
"KC offers so much, and that makes it a very tough choice," the source said. "KC has all the things the NFL looks for in a host city. But the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame is in Cleveland/Canton and it's the 100th anniversary of the league. Dave Baker (CEO of the Hall of Fame) has already made it clear he wants it there. He has a lot of influence. Nonetheless, Kansas City has a strong bid and they could easily win."
Donovan had a simple reply when told of Baker's statement.
"We're ready for that challenge," Donovan said.