Kicked Out After Kickoff: Fans Weigh In On Chiefs' New Tailgating Policy
Updated Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 5:45 p.m. with remarks from Chiefs president Mark Donovan.
The Kansas City Chiefs announced changes to their tailgating policy this week, and it's left some fans as hot as their grills.
Fans won't be able to tailgate in the parking lot after kickoff — they'll have to enter the stadium or leave, according to the Chiefs website.
It isn't clear whether it'll take effect for Thursday's preseason game against Green Bay, or whether it'll be on the Sept. 23 home game.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan told reporters last week at a kickoff luncheon that there will be a little wiggle room before people are asked to leave.
“This is not going to be a hard stop as soon as the ball is kicked we are kicking people out of our parking lots. We are going to go out in the parking lots and talk to our fans,” Donovan said.
Tailgating is a hallmark of going to a Chiefs' game; Arrowhead Stadium regularly appears on lists for best tailgating stadiums.
“If you think about Arrowhead Stadium and what it means, it’s a lot of noise during the game,” said Pete Sweeney, the editor in chief of SB Nation's Arrowhead Pride blog. “But a lot of it is getting up early on Sunday, and lining up outside the gates for it to open and you drive up to the stadium and there’s the smell of barbecue.”
Arrowhead Pride polled its readers on the new policy Tuesday. As of Tuesday afternoon, about 65 percent of the more than 1,500 respondents opposed the changes.
Fans who don't have a ticket to the game frequently pay the $60 parking fee to tailgate, set up a TV and stay in the parking lot during the game.
"I think that's the fan that is kind of hurt the most ... those old-school fans who really enjoyed cuddling up with a blanket, making sure that the grill and everything is fine at their particular tailgate and taking in the game right outside the stadium," Sweeney said.
Chiefs fan Curtis Kitchen said on Twitter that tailgating sets Arrowhead apart from other stadiums.
Jon Hal tweeted that the new policy would likely keep him from going to games at all.
While tailgating is an important part of the fan experience, hours of drinking before a game can create a dangerous environment. The Chiefs have already settled two lawsuits related to fan safety this year, one stemming from the 2013 death of Kyle Van Winkle in the Arrowhead parking lot during a home game.
The terms of the June settlement for wrongful death were not disclosed. Van Winkle’s attorney, Bill Carr, told KCUR in 2016 that the lawsuit was meant to "establish dialogue with the Kansas City Chiefs in order to make sure that no other family loses a husband and father because of something like this that happened by simply going to a football game.”
Chiefs president Mark Donovan told The Kansas City Star that he’d “be naïve to say” Van Winkle’s death did not factor into the decision. The NFL Security Committee issued a report in May, the contents of which were not publicly released.
Twitter user Joshua Drown acknowledged that the policy will probably make the parking lot safer, if less enjoyable.
It is so hard to balance safety and sports culture. There is no doubt that this policy will keep more #Chiefs fans safe, and there is also little doubt that for many this will make tailgating at Arrowhead less fun and negatively impact their game day experience.— Joshua Drown (@JoshDrown) August 28, 2018
Some fans say the new policy won’t keep fans safer, arguing that forcing someone to drive home after drinking heavily for several hours only puts them in more danger.
But some fans said on social media that the policy could make the experience more family-friendly. Josh Malone tweeted that true fans should be inside the stadium anyway.
Doesn’t bother me I’m there for the game. Personally I feel like halftime makes more sense, but it’s their stadium they can do what they want. You should be inside arrowhead losing your voice anyway.— Josh Malone (@Malone_KcChiefs) August 28, 2018
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.