KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Big changes are coming to the Kansas City Chiefs tailgating policy, and it will affect thousands of fans who eat and drink in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot on game days.
Starting this season, security will go through the parking lot after the game begins and force fans to either go inside the stadium - or go home. Chiefs president Mark Donovan says it's all about keeping fans safe on game day.
"From a safety and security standpoint, we don’t want someone out there all day who’s not going to the game," Donovan said. "If you’re out there taking up a spot, if you’re out there taking in traffic and you’re not going to the game, that’s impacting a person who is going to the game."
Every year, the NFL makes suggestions to teams on ways to improve the fan experience, and these tailgating changes are a part of that.
"They’re really looking at it from a safety and security standpoint," Donovan said. "We looked at that and said, we don’t necessarily agree in KC, that’s what we should do. We know our fans pretty well. We know the importance of tailgating. However, there are some real strong points in the safety and security standpoint."
Five years ago, a fan died after a fight in the parking lot. Kyle Van Winkle felt ill after kickoff and went to his car to sleep it off. He accidentally got into someone else's car, and when the owner of that car found Van Winkle inside, sleeping, he accused him of breaking in.
That led to a fight that led to Van Winkle's death. His wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chiefs, and they settled out of court.
A FOX4 investigation discovered dozens of incidences of fights and drunken misbehavior at Arrowhead during games, more than in other similar sized markets. By getting fans out of the parking lot and into the stadium during the game, they hope to reduce the number of assaults at Arrowhead on game day.
"We’re going to continue to celebrate tailgating," Donovan said. "It’s important to Arrowhead. It’s important to the fan experience."
Donovan recognizes that many fans come to Arrowhead without a ticket just to tailgate, and that once they begin enforcing this policy some of those fans might no longer come out on game day. While the Chiefs are hesitant to upset loyal tailgating fans, they believe this new rule is necessary to keep everyone safe.
"We’re going to transition into this," he said. "It’s not going to be a hard stop and start kicking people out of the parking lots. But we are going to go out into the parking lots and explain this is what we’re trying to do."
The next home game is Thursday, when the Chiefs play the Green Bay Packers in the final preseason game of the year.