Sam Mellinger & The Dwindling Arrowhead Experience

(Pic: KC Star)

Kansas City Star beat writer Sam Mellinger churns out a brutally honest assessment for those of us who remember the ’90s: we are witnessing the declining Arrowhead experience.  It’s a great piece of journalism that deserves credit for soberly addressing the situation that’s starting to plague Arrowhead Stadium, and getting worse year after year.

His entire article is very well done, please read it.  It feels unfair to even quote part of it, because it’s all so essential, but here’s a couple of the most devastating quips:

Prices continue to rise even through a brutal economy. Struggling fans are literally asked to pay more with less — when there’s more to experience than every before by paying nothing.

Using the Team Marketing Report numbers, going to 10 games at Arrowhead Stadium would cost more than $3,500 for a family of four.

For tha tmoney, you can buy a 42-inch LCD television with surround sound, three leather home theater seats, the Sunday Ticket package to watch every game, and still have nearly $150 per week to sp end on beer and food.

Which one sounds like the better deal?

Mellinger’s point is well-taken, evidenced by the pathetic rows of empty yellow and orange seats in the upper decks, and the fact that the Chiefs won the AFC West and had players that were among league leaders in sacks, touchdown receptions, and rushing yards — yet only sold 200 more tickets per game than in 2009.

Football teams are going through the same crunch that movie theaters are experiencing: as prices soar at these events (30% above inflation, according to Mellinger!), as does home technology, and this trend seems to doom the Arrowhead experience in the future unless something dramatic changes.

More thoughts on this, after the jump.

What games can we truly say the Chiefs have knocked out of the park with the Arrowhead Stadium experience in the past five years?

Only two games that I can think of — the Broncos Thanksgiving game in 2006 and the Chargers MNF game last year.  Despite all the setbacks — weather, high prices, parking, all that junk.  And yet the crowd turned out and got the place rocking.

Certainly the Chiefs can get away with all their prices — which for some reason, have risen along with the league average — when the games are big.  But they should not be at the league average.  This is one of the smallest markets in the NFL.  The fan experience is really all this franchise has to make money for itself that doesn’t get spread out among the other franchises in the league. 

Training Camp in St. Joseph was a good start, but Training Camp needs to be much closer to Kansas City to involve the city more — who are going to be most of the people coming out to watch the team play.

The in-stadium technology needs to be radically redone — as Mellinger alluded, the Cowboys have two massive screens in their stadium to compete with any IMAX theater.  The screens in Arrowhead are small, replay only bits and pieces of the game (they never replay good plays by the other team — c’mon! other teams make great plays, too!).

The 2010 stadium “renovations” were largely focused in the top-dollar suites.  That’s fine by me; the stadium needs to be able to entertain guests of any caliber, including the highest possible that are going to pay their patrons the biggest sums of cash.  But the yellow seats have become pathetic during the Denny Thum era — let average fans in there.  Price them the same as the rest of the stadium, maybe even marginally higher.  It enhances the box seat experience to be surrounded by the mayhem of  Arrowhead, but ensconsed safely behind the window.

The Chiefs do parking completely backwards.  The pregame tailgating experience is THE DRAW to Arrowhead.  If you invite more people to the pregame tailgating party, you’re going to get better attendance.  That is the big bad secret of Carl Peterson.  As it stands, parking skyrockets every year despite dwindling returns on tickets.  Parking shot up $5 this year, for instance.  That cuts down on people coming to tailgate, and people coming to games increases as a result.

What thoughts do you guys have?  Help me save Arrowhead.

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