Tailgating concerns, naming rights remain on Chiefs agenda

(Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)
(Emily DeShazer/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If you want to start a heated debate with Chiefs, two hot-button topics are tailgating in the parking lot before games and naming rights for Arrowhead Stadium, and right now the Chiefs are tackling both with ferocity normally reserved for pass rushers.

Team chief operating officer Mark Donovan said the challenge the team faces is utilizing the sports complex’s approximately 19,000 parking spaces to accommodate a capacity crowd of more than 76,000 fans while maintaining what fans argue is the best tailgating experience in the NFL.

“We tried to develop a system and make changes to the current system that would simplify the process,” Donovan said. “Simplify it for our fans, simplifying for the team that operates it.”

Much of the consternation that riled fans during the first preseason game against Seattle stemmed from the new lines yellow lines marking tailgating areas. Donovan admits enforcement of the guidelines was uneven and overly aggressive in some parking areas.

“One side of the stadium worked very well,” Donovan said. “The other side of the stadium, through some of our own fault, was enforced incorrectly. We’ll make those changes, we’ve adjusted that, and our hope is that we’re going to get better every single week.”

The yellow lines are intended to ensure there is space for emergency vehicles in the event of an safety or security issue. The goal is for fans to fit unmovable objects such as tents, tables and grills within the yellow lines.

“But chairs and hacky sack and bean toss and all those things, you can put in the middle,” Donovan said. “Just be able to move it when we need you to move it.”

Donovan said the team wants to ensure both that emergency vehicles can navigate the parking lot when needed and later arriving fans can still reach empty parking spaces.

“The Hunt family, the Kansas City Chiefs, we as an operating organization, celebrate tailgating,” Donovan said. “We want to do everything we can to continue to build the reputation we for the game day experience at Arrowhead.”

Donovan also addressed questions about naming rights for Arrowhead Stadium. Nearly ten years ago the team and the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority negotiated stadium lease terms that allowed the Chiefs to sell naming rights to the stadium.

The team has had ongoing negotiations regarding potential sponsors in the past, but no deal has been made. However, the market for stadium naming rights is on the rebound, as evidenced by the recent announcement that the Chicago White Sox have sold naming rights to their stadium – Guaranteed Rate Field becomes its new name Nov. 1.

“I would tell you that we are continuing to have discussions,” Donovan said. “There are more discussions than there have been in the past, mainly because we have been working on it so long.”

Donovan said Arrowhead Stadium is one one the most iconic sports sites not to have a naming rights deal. But there is one significant catch for any naming rights deal.

“We’ve said pretty vocally and consistently that we’d be looking for a partner that makes sense for Kansas City, and a partner that understands the importance of keeping the Arrowhead name.”

He explained that the team is looking primarily for field naming rights, pointing to Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High as an example.

“There’s nothing to report today,” Donovan said. “Those discussion and negotiations typically take longer than your average deal, but we are in discussions as we speak.”

Matt Derrick is the publisher and lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.