Kansas City's Union Station.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Tragic History Behind Kansas City's Union Station, The 2023 NFL Draft Venue

The National Football League has moved around its draft sites in recent years. From New York City to Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, the league has decided that the draft should be held around the United States and not in one location as it was in the past.

This year, the league is targeting Kansas City's Union Station as the site for Roger Goodell to announce which players will go to which teams. Union Station is a unique setting, thus creating a few questions: What is Union Station, why does it matter, and what will having the draft there mean for the league?

Union Station: The Tragic History Behind The NFL Draft Venue

Union Station in Kansas City.

Union Station is decorated with Kansas City Chiefs banners ahead of Super Bowl LV on February 01, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Union Station was, as its name implies, a train station. The site closed its operations in 1985, transforming from being a hub for trains to now being primarily used as a tourist destination. The station offers several amenities. It features a science center, planetarium, model train gallery, theater and plenty of places to shop and dine. Overall, the station gives a great look at the city and its history.

Though the station is now an entertainment center, it has a deep, important, but tragic history.

All the way back on June 17, 1933, a shootout occurred between criminals and police, resulting in the death of convicted mobster Frank Nash and four law enforcement officers. Friends of Nash, including Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Vernon Miller and Adam Richetti, attempted to free Nash, which resulted in the deadly shootout outside the station. 

The FBI searched for Miller, who led the killings, in the following months until he was found dead in a ditch outside of Detroit in November 1933 reportedly after a mob-related dispute. Meanwhile, "Pretty Boy" Floyd was on the run when the FBI found him in Ohio in October 1934. He was shot and killed in a shootout. As for Richetti, he was apprehended by police in Ohio just a few days earlier. He was sentenced to death and executed in Missouri's gas chamber on October 7, 1938.

Pretty Boy Floyd

An FBI mugshot of Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd from June 1933. Wikimedia Commons: FBI

Following the shooting, Congress increased the power of the FBI.

"That morning, a mass murder committed in front of Union Railway Station shocked the American public into a new consciousness of the serious crime problems in the nation," the FBI's website reads.

"Within a year of the tragedy, Congress responded by giving us new tools to fight crime—including statutory authority to carry guns and make arrests, both of which have been pillars in our work to protect the nation ever since.

"In July 1935, as the capstone of its newfound identity and successful fight against gangsters, the organization was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation—the FBI."

Moving past such a tragedy, the station has been a welcome blueprint into how to take advantage of a dying structure. With a lack of rail passengers in the passing years, the station wasn't torn down but instead turned into a tourist destination.  

What Choosing Union Station Means For the NFL Draft

Fireworks go off over Union Station after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on February 12, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

With a place such as the Union Station selected as a draft site, this also gives the NFL a chance to shine light on other cities and their famous tourist destinations, something that should eventually help the economy of the city where the draft is held. Cities such as Detroit, which will host the draft in 2024, aren't the first name on people's list in terms of travel. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, Detroit is estimated to be shrinking in population, as it presumably lacks being an attractive place to stay anymore. And with a lack of consistency from the hometown Lions, it is hard to attract fans. But the draft could help do just that, and it may create some extra capital for a city that is struggling in a lot of ways.

Among the other most significant factors, having the draft in Kansas City's Union Station will continue the flexibility in selecting the NFL's draft locations. Something that the league has been working on in previous years, the draft has been held in the center of the Strip, a harbor and even an art museum. After years of holding the draft in theater and traditional stage settings, the NFL now has much more adaptability to the fan base and less commitment to tradition. This quality should benefit both the league and its fans.

When the NFL selected Kansas City, it also appeared to be making a statement that Kansas City will be a significant city moving forward and fans should begin to get comfortable with the environment. The league clearly has a love for the cities of New York and Chicago and for the market opportunities they present. 

Though big markets are appreciated, their teams aren't always playing at a high level as the smaller-market Chiefs continue to do. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and coach Andy Reid are only primed to stack more championships on top of the two the pair already has. What's more interesting is that the league never decided to hold the draft in Boston when the city had the likes of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The NFL hasn't always fully embraced the cities of its dynasties but things may change, as it appears Kansas City will be a prominent factor for many years to come.

The NFL Draft will start at 8 p.m. ET on April 27 and conclude on April 29. After the first round on Thursday, rounds two and three will take place on Friday. The last four rounds will all take place on Saturday.

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