KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Chiefs Kingdom gathers for football on Thursday, they’ll face a rule change.
The Chiefs franchise says once games kickoff, tailgaters will be expected to be inside Arrowhead Stadium or they’ll have to clear the parking lot. That means no more tailgating during games.
To some Chiefs fans, gameday tailgating means as much football does. Beginning with Thursday’s final preseason game against the Packers, Chiefs security guards will sweep the Arrowhead parking lots as soon as the game begins and ticket windows close. Team president Mark Donovan says fans who are still in the lot will have to head for the stadium — provided they have a ticket — or to the road if they don’t.
“The big real reason for that is safety and security, and folks being in the lot who shouldn’t be in the lot,” Donovan said on Friday.
At the franchise’s kickoff luncheon on Friday, Donovan told reporters the recommendation came from the National Football League, and that all 32 teams were advised to cut off tailgating in this manner.
“This is not going to be a hard stop, and as soon as the ball is kicked, we’re kicking people out of our parking lot. We are going out to the parking lot and we’re going to talk to our fans. We’re going to explain what we’re trying to do. We’ll explain that they need to sort of get going,” Donovan said.
Donovan said parking lots at the Truman Sports Complex operate efficiently when they hold around 19,000 cars. Straggling tailgaters make for security and traffic concerns, according to the team president.
The change doesn’t set well with fans such as Dallas Kidd, who said he’s been a season ticket holder for five years. Kidd and his family have loaded onto a big red schoolbus painted in Chiefs colors every gameday for the past three seasons, and Kidd said not everyone on the bus holds a ticket. Some people come along for the atmosphere and the fun of tailgating.
“We usually have 10-15 people and we’re having drinks and playing games,” Kidd said on Tuesday. “It’s the whole atmosphere. I think the reason the Chiefs have kept the fan base they have is because of the tailgating. This is kind of cutting into it.”
Kidd is one of several fans who complained this is merely the Chiefs’ method of selling more tickets to the game. Fans blanched in similar disgust when the team recently raised parking costs.
“There’s plenty of security. There’s lots of people roaming around. Not everyone is belligerently drunk. There’s a lot of good people out there keeping an eye on each other,” Kidd complained.
Donovan said safety remains a concern at the stadium. Five years ago, Kyle Van Winkle, 27, was beaten to death in the stadium parking lot. His family attorney, Bill Carr, said he cannot speak to the specifics of that case, but in general terms, the Van Winkles see this as a win.
“The family is pleased they are making some meaningful changes out there that will protect the fans in the long run,” Carr told FOX4 News.
Donovan pointed out this isn’t the first change the Chiefs and the NFL have implemented — including tighter security and mandatory use of clear bags being brought into the stadium. He believes in time, fans will adjust to this as well. Fans at Johnny’s Tavern in the Power and Light District seem to have mixed opinions.
“I don’t think you should lump a couple of people or a small group of people in there with all the Chiefs fans who are there to have a good time and go enjoy the game. If not, they’re there to watch the game on their TV and barbecue. What are they hurting?” asked Drew Coffman, a Chiefs fan from Lee’s Summit.
“I’m not a fan of this. I think guys are going out there to have a good time. I think it’s going to take away from the Kansas City experience of being a Chiefs fan,” Joey Eddings, a longtime Chiefs fan from Johnson County, Kansas, said.
Robbie Welch, the restaurant’s assistant manager, said he sees both sides of this debate, and as someone who works in the hospitality industry, he detects alcohol consumption as being a big concern for the National Football League.
“I think people are going to drink just as much in the stadium as they are in the parking lot. That’s where I think the numbers in the stands come into play. It’s their reasoning for it, and I can see that, but people are going to drink and do what they do in the parking lot just as much,” Welch said.