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Considered by many to offer the NFL's biggest home-field advantage, Arrowhead Stadium opened in 1972 as one half of Kansas City's Truman Sports Complex. Sitting just north of the Royals' Kauffman Stadium, Arrowhead underwent a massive and much needed face-lift in 2009. Added were additional suites and press-boxes, a Hall of Fame, numerous digital improvements, and widened concourses.
As one of the few remaining "bowl" style NFL venues, Arrowhead is a throw-back football home housing one of the best atmospheres in the league. In a sports venue world increasingly reliant on comfort, aesthetics, and overall ostentation, this is the perfect blend of rugged past and updated present, just the way the Chiefs and their army of fans like it.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Prior to renovations in 2009, Arrowhead concessions surely ranked among the NFL's worst. Today, that's far from the case.
Traditional stadium fare like hot dogs, burgers, brats, and the like are offered, but what sets Arrowhead's eats apart is its myriad of local options. Gates BBQ stand, for one, should not be missed. Get a huge beef sandwich and fries for $8; it's well worth it, and a sterling example of K.C. style barbecue. Local custard and popcorn is also available if you're more prone to snacking than a full meal, and selections from Boulevard Brewing Company - located just several miles west of the stadium - is proudly served. Arrowhead also offers an impressive plethora of alcoholic beverages. While expectantly pricey, that full bars replete with various whiskys, vodkas, and gins are available at all is noteworthy.
The only thing keeping Arrowhead's food and beverages from the truly elite are its prices. While $7.50 for a domestic draft is in line with the competition, it hardly makes you want to go back for another.
Arrowhead Stadium is considered by many to be the loudest venue in the NFL, but that's just a portion of what makes a Chiefs game-day experience arguably better than any other.
Start with the unmatched tailgating scene. In both quantity and quality, there isn't a pre-game eating and drinking landscape like Arrowhead's. Affectionately dubbed "The Asphalt Jungle," the massive parking lot surrounding the stadium is filled with food, grills, and booze hours before kick-off. Anything goes here, too - you'll find everything from t-bone steaks to hamburger chili to fried eggs as a pre-game meal. Some eschew cooking altogether and bring in multiple platters from KC's myriad of amazing BBQ joints. No matter what you crave to quench your pre-game appetite, you'll find here, the NFL's blue-collar answer to tailgating paradise.
Once inside Arrowhead, the fun continues. Fans spontaneously start the "Tomahawk Chop" prior to kick-off and during time-outs. At the end of the national anthem, the entire stadium proudly shouts, "...home of the CHIEFS!" For touchdowns, the crowd gives the familiar touchdown song a unique and intimidating twist, yelling "WE'RE GONNA BEAT THE HELL OUT OF YOU!" and pointing at the opposition. The field gets cacophonous noise from all sides when Kansas City is on defense, but fans erupt out of their seats on third downs with unrivaled intensity.
Throughout the game, Arrowhead buzzes to the brim. There's a certain magic felt at all times, the type that is immediately recognizable as rare and especially noteworthy. Perhaps no town loves their team more than Kansas City does the Chiefs, and Arrowhead's excited, unique, and fervent atmosphere indicates as much. It's tough to beat, whether professional, college, or anywhere else.
There's nothing immediately outside Arrowhead Stadium. Almost literally nothing. Along with the Royals' Kauffman Stadium, it's located in the center of a massive parking lot, sits just south of a major highway, and isn't close to walkable from any restaurants or bars. If you're in town to catch the game, you'll almost surely stay at least a couple miles from the stadium, and you'll be happy about it.
Having said that, its extreme isolation is what makes Arrowhead so special. You are so immersed into everything - the red, the aroma, the industrial pageantry - it's near impossible not to get swept up into it. Arrowhead's "neighborhood" is a grass-less, overcrowded island with a single resource, and the natives wouldn't have it any other way.
Obviously, those who want to sit down for a quick bite and beer at a local haunt then walk to the game will be severely disappointed. Take in The Asphalt Jungle, though, and they'll be anything but.
For better or worse, the group that makes Arrowhead a "Sea of Red" are the NFL's quintessential fans. If you're looking for an accurate representation of the league's fan base, this is it on steroids.
There's a growing sentiment among some NFL fans (those with children and the elderly, to stereotype) that they'd rather stay at home and watch the game on television than actually attend. Chief reason is what they consider fans that make the in-game experience too much to bear. They're too loud. They're obnoxious. They stand up too much. They're drunk. They're passion verges on the insane.
These "negatives" - Kansas Citians are proud to admit - are considered anything but at Arrowhead Stadium. The crowd is as engaged and locked into the action on the field as any you'll find. They chant, cheer, and boo seemingly in unison with unmatched aplomb. They high-five and chest-bump strangers. They curse like sailors. They mock followers of the opposition, not always in good nature. They scream incessantly for the defense. And it's all taken to another level on third downs, in the fourth quarter, and under the lights.
There's a reason why opposing players hate coming to Arrowhead and the Chiefs have such a sterling home resume, and it begins and ends with this obsessed, crazy, almost-rabid group of people - the best fans in the NFL.
Access to Arrowhead Stadium is neither a positive or negative of the overall Chiefs game-day experience. Traffic on major highways going to and from the complex is a nuisance, though regulars comfortable with the area easily avoid it by utilizing various back-roads. Due to the plethora of spaces available, parking is never a problem at Arrowhead. Even arriving late, you'll have no problem finding room in a section's latter third.
Getting into the stadium can be hassle. There are several points of entry, but each congests as kick-off nears and security personnel give pat-downs to every attendant. Once inside the confines, Arrowhead is easy to navigate. Huge, circular ramps in all corners lead up or down to seating areas, and the newly widened concourses make for acceptable, if crowded, movement.
The NFL game experience is expensive, and Arrowhead's is no different. Tickets range from $30 in the far upper corners to $285 on the club level's sideline. The best bang for your buck, though, is sitting towards the middle of the field in Arrowhead's top portion for $64 - you get a panoramic, aerial view of game action unlike anywhere else. The only truly egregious price at Arrowhead is that of a parking pass, which is a steep $27.
Attending a Chiefs game is undeniably high-priced. Having said that, considering the total Arrowhead experience - done with ample tailgating, especially - is among the NFL's best, you won't feel your cost was too much.
The minutes leading up to kick-off at Arrowhead are special. For this particular Monday Night Football match-up, fireworks came from either side of the stadium and there was a sizable military fly-over. For that, two additional points.
When renovating the stadium in 2009, the Chiefs added a Hall of Fame and interactive "Sports Lab" for kids. Each is an enjoyable if not must-see aspect of Arrowhead, but worthy of two more points.
Arrowhead Stadium opened in August of 1972. It is the fourth largest stadium in the NFL, with a capacity of 77,000. At its time of induction, George Halas called Arrowhead, "the most revolutionary, futuristic, sports complex I have ever seen." In 2010, a $375 million renovation was completed, adding to the already rich Arrowhead experience.
The atmosphere outside of the stadium was energetic, as many fans arrived early to tailgate before the game. A line formed at the stadium gates nearly 45 minutes before they opened, as anticipation of the game grew. The gates finally opened an hour and a half prior to game time.
The energy during the first half could be described as upbeat and exciting. Despite a disappointing season, Chiefs fans came prepared to root on their team against the division rival Denver Broncos. The stadium got loud on third downs, and they chanted "first down" every time the home team moved the sticks.
Halftime proved to be a memorable moment for Chiefs fans, as the team officially retired the late Derrick Thomas' number 58. Derrick's mother, Edith, was present, as were many of Thomas' former coaches and teammates; most notably Marty Schottenheimer and Neil Smith.
During timeouts throughout the game, the video boards displayed former Chiefs players revealing their favorite Derrick Thomas memories. This, in addition to the halftime presentation, added a great deal of historical presence to this particular Arrowhead experience.
The second half atmosphere was much different, as the Broncos opened up a 34-6 lead by the end of the third quarter. This caused many fans to leave early, a cardinal sin in my book.
Back in the 1990's, and even early 2000's, the atmosphere at Arrowhead would have earned five points on this rating scale. The team's recent struggles, however, have scared away many fair-weather fans, leading to several empty seats on game day. Once dubbed, "the loudest stadium in the NFL" Arrowhead now lacks that certain magic that used to set it apart from other NFL venues.
I've gone to Arrowhead twice in my lifetime. Once vs. the Titans in 2010 and the other vs. the Packers in 2011. The Arrowhead experience is one of the best experiences I have ever been a part of. The tailgating is one of the best I have seen and the fans are awesome! Sure, you will get the disrespectful fans, but overall it's awesome!
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