This national war museum will sit front and center at the NFL Draft

National WWI Museum and Memorial
National WWI Museum and Memorial photo.

Much excitement is coming to what’s known as “the front porch of Kansas City” this spring. Not only does the multi-state city have another chance to celebrate its recent Super Bowl win with the Chiefs, but it will also host the NFL’s 2023 Draft.

In downtown Kansas City, Missouri, the historic location is home to many recognizable buildings, including Union Station, a 109-year-old beaux-arts train station, which will host the event’s main stage. The National World War I Memorial and Museum will also be a key player in the event. 

Located next door to Union Station, the monument/museum combo has been in operation since 1926.

For the Draft and days before, the 47-acre lot will be home to many activities, football-themed games, food vendors, and more. In addition, the museum has hosted the NFL’s temporary Draft headquarters as they’ve been prepping the locale in recent weeks. 

“This is our chance to be able to link the service of Americans in WWI with American football and also with the subsequent creation of the NFL,” said Dr. Matthew Naylor, president and CEO of the National WWI Museum & Memorial.

“[The Draft] is a wonderful opportunity for media, fans are drawn to the value. Democracy, freedom, patriotism. Those things are expressed in the memorial,” he said. “We’re able to tell some of those stories. Be able to thread the needle, show the connectedness and common experience.”

Dr. Naylor added that WWI played a role in the creation of the NFL itself. American football was relatively new as a sport but was used for physical exercise, as well as a way to pass the time. That practice continued as soldiers entered the war, and well beyond its conclusion. 

“WWI is sometimes thought of as months of boredom, interrupted by moments of sheer terror,” he said. With little to do, soldiers spent much of their time playing catch or creating a game of football. 

In 1920, the NFL was founded, and some veterans who had served went on to join the league, the Australian native said. 

museum to host nfl draft date
Postcard of men at Camp Mac Arthur in Waco, Texas playing football, circa 1918. (National WWI Museum and Memorial photo)

This is outlined in a new exhibit, Entertaining the Troops, which can be viewed in the Museum. It features football memorabilia, and remnants of other ways soldiers stayed busy.

During the Draft, there will be a red-carpet event for Draftees and other important NFL members on Thursday before the draft, after which personnel can tour the museum. 

Each evening, their landmark tower, which stands 217 feet, will be lit with poppies, a sign of remembrance and hope for a future of peace. 

Security, Dr. Naylor said, is managed by the NFL. While visitors must register via a free app to get into the Draft grounds. The area has been fenced off, and a government ID is required to enter. Admission will still be charged at the museum, which is $20 for adults, though discounts are available. 

“We see this as a great opportunity to host an important national event and to link that to some of our core values of veterans, and to celebrate a disciplined football team,” he said. “We want to show the service, democracy, and patriotism of those veterans, and draw the attention to those 100 years ago as well as those who served today.”