Kansas City Chiefs fans aren't sweating over the Super Bowl: ‘We know we’re the best’
From Union Station to Gates Bar-B-Q, Chiefs fans have been getting ready for the Super Bowl — making bets, taking photos and staying hopeful that they’ll be celebrating a Kansas City win on Sunday.
Kansas City is decked out for the Chiefs’ third Super Bowl appearance in four years. Local restaurants and bakeries are stocked with Chiefs-themed food, and team flags seem to be hanging from every window.
At Union Station, thousands of fans a day have been visiting the Chiefs Fan Zone, where the grand hall and lobby are decorated with red and gold.
“If you're not at a game at Arrowhead celebrating in the moment, you're coming here to celebrate the season,” says Micheal Tritt, chief marketing officer for Union Station.
That’s where Brandon Spencer was taking photos with his three kids – 3-year-old twins Jackson and Roman and 1-year-old Nova – and his mom, Gayla.
Standing behind a 3D display, Spencer said his family has been in the spirit all week.
“I have the pictures of me as a child with my mom and dad, and so now to be able to come back and get those pictures of them at that same age, the icing on the cake is that it's for the Super Bowl,” Spencer said. “That was something when I was a kid, that was not a thing at all. So it's a lot of fun and something that will probably be in a big frame in our living room.”
This Sunday, the family plans to recreate the Super Bowl party they threw in 2020, the last time the Chiefs won the NFL Championship.
Unlike his dad, 3-year-old Jackson — whose favorite player is Patrick Mahomes — is used to the Chiefs winning. After all, the Chiefs have won the AFC Championship every year of Jackson's life.
“For the Super Bowl they're gonna play the ‘delphia Eagles and the Chiefs are going to win after that, so they going to be the greatest champion,” Jackson said.
On Saturday, the day before Super Bowl Sunday, Tritt estimates that 15,000 people will come to have their pictures taken at Union Station. He says they plan far in advance for the occasion.
“We start in October setting up for our holiday experience, which has about 300,000 people visiting the station,” Tritt said. “And then when we're up and going in holidays, we're now planning for the Chiefs playoff or post-season season, and it just rolls one into the other.”
This year, Tritt said Union Station will also have an event for people to celebrate the upcoming NFL Draft, which will be held right outside in April.
‘I dreamed of moments like this’
Mayor Quinton Lucas is getting into the Chiefs spirit by following through on his Super Bowl traditions. He calls his mom before every kickoff, and says he always makes sure to make a bet with the opposing team’s mayor.
This year, he bet Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney a platter of Gates Bar-B-Q as well as goods from local businesses like Guy’s Snacks, The Roasterie, Boulevard Beer and Charlie Hustle.
In return, Kenney put a large pizza and a six pack of Philly beer on the line. Lucas is confident he won’t be shipping any barbecue to Philadelphia.
“We know we're the best,” Lucas said. “Not in a cocky way, but in a nice, humble, Midwestern way, which is we got a darn good team, and we're excited to be able to watch 'em with all of America this Sunday.”
To my man, @PhillyMayor ,— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) February 8, 2023
We’re betting some of our very best barbecue from @GatesBarBQ, along with @Boulevard_Beer, @CharlieHustleCo shirts, and @TheRoasterie coffee that our @Chiefs bring the Lombardi trophy back to Kansas City.
What’s your bet?
Go Chiefs! See y’all Sunday pic.twitter.com/xRX9Wf60GP
For his part, George Gates said he loves participating in the Super Bowl bets. While he wants the world to know about Kansas City-style barbecue, he doesn’t plan to introduce the Philadelphia mayor to it after this weekend. In fact, Gates said he believes his barbecue may help the Chiefs on Sunday.
“A lot of the Chiefs come to Gates and so you know that's what makes them win – in addition to hard work, practice, a good coach and a good team,” Gates said.
The mayor isn’t the only one making wagers. Gov. Mike Parson, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Linda Hall Research Library and even Children’s Mercy have all bet on the Chiefs with their Philadelphia counterparts.
Lucas said the Chiefs’ winning streak and Super Bowl appearance brings people together to celebrate something as a city – on both sides of the state line.
“As a kid who grew up in Kansas City, nothing could be better,” Lucas said. “I dreamed of moments like this and days like this when I was a kid, I didn't think it was possible. And when you talk about this sustained run with Chiefs football, I mean, my God, it's a great time to be mayor.”
‘Showcase what this city is about’
Inside Union Station, Ashley McBride was taking photos next to a display for tight-end Travis Kelce. She moved from Kansas City to Texas five years ago, but makes sure to come back and visit regularly.
McBride was excited to use the Super Bowl as her excuse to come home — no one celebrates quite like Kansas Citians, she says.
“I'm just proud of the team and I love what they've been doing,” McBride said. “Pat Mahomes, Travis, all of them — they've been doing a great job. (Chiefs fans) are really putting us even more on the map, allowing us to showcase what the city is about and really show everybody how fans do it.”
The Chiefs Fan Zone also brought coworkers together to celebrate the upcoming game. Rudy Lemoine, Trevor Hudson and Michael Ferjak are coworkers at Bankers Life, but Ferjak’s outspoken Eagles’ pride has brought Sunday’s rivalry to the workplace.
“It's been a fun two weeks leading up to it,” Ferjak said. “Chief's Kingdom has been a very welcoming one, a very loud one for the whole entire week. It’s definitely been fun in the office, talking smack. The Chiefs and Eagles are the two best teams in the league, so it's been fun for sure.”
Despite his allegiance to the Eagles, Hudson makes sure Ferjak feels the local pride.
“We like to celebrate our home team because it's Chief's Kingdom,” Hudson said. “We're part of that leading up to (the Super Bowl). Being a lifetime Chiefs fan has been electric and amazing considering the last few years.”
Angela Crawford brought her coworkers from The Builders, a chapter of the Associate General Contractors of America. She says she and her coworkers are approaching the Super Bowl as more than just fans.
“A lot of our members build the things that make this city what it is,” Crawford said. “We love supporting our city, we love supporting our local teams. Our members are all in and around the construction industry and commercial construction. We are so completely ingrained in the city, it would be weird not to celebrate the Super Bowl.”
Laird Lindsey is responsible for many of the displays bringing fans together in the Chiefs Fan Zone. He’s worked for Union Station for longer than he can remember –even after his retirement, he’s volunteered for events like this.
He adapted the LVII display to show the Super Bowl’s appropriate Roman numerals. That took about a week to fabricate and build.
“We have all these things that we're doing, but when the Chiefs get close to the Super Bowl, we drop everything and go right into Chiefs mode and then it's build, build, build until the very last minute and cross our fingers,” Lindsey said. “It's fun because watching the TV at night, commercials will come on with the news and you'll see all your stuff in the background.”
Nick Cline, who does lighting for Union Station, said there’s something special about perfecting the display of team colors at night.
“As the teams play each other, incorporating our red and yellow with the other teams and have it make sense – on the building or in some of the photo ops we have – keeps it interesting,” Cline says. “It's just really nice to be able to see fans and families come in and get nice pictures or something that will mean something to them down the road. I'm really happy to play a part in that and help out any way I can.”
Kickoff for the Super Bowl is at 5:30 p.m. CST on Sunday, Feb. 12. Check out KCUR's guide to how to watch the game and where to find local watch parties.