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After bouncing some questions around on the work done to Lambeau Field, I moved along to Kansas City to chat with Joel from Arrowhead Pride about the renovations that Arrowhead Stadium underwent recently.
Chris: Talk of a new stadium being a mandatory factor in keeping the Bills in Buffalo continues to gain momentum. All the while, construction is ongoing on a $100+ million project to improve accessibility and other amenities at Ralph Wilson Stadium. How would you qualify the condition of Arrowhead prior to the start of work in 2007?
Joel: It wasn’t so much that it was in bad shape as it was that it wasn’t one of those new fancy stadiums. I would say it was in average condition — things weren’t falling off the walls but it lacked some of the basic amenities you find in stadiums today (like fancy new suites).
CO: All told, the total came to $375 million along with another $125 million paid by the Hunt family. What did that $500 million buy the Chiefs and their fans?
JT: Looking at the field, you won’t see a significant difference. Most of the work came in the club level and suites. The press box was moved from the suite level to this spaceship looking thing above the stadium. They added an electronic banner around the ring of the stadium. They also made a Hall of Honor for the former great players.
CO: Is there anything they did that stands out to you as a major positive for the project? Any major negatives or pointless additions?
JT: The Chiefs added a bunch of historic pictures to the walls of the stadium, which is pretty cool. So you walk down the concourse and see a picture of Len Dawson and then one of Derrick Thomas and others. The Hall of Honor is also really cool with neat pieces of Chiefs history included.
CO: The Chiefs lease runs through 2031, do you feel the renovations will keep the stadium relevant through the end of the lease?
JT: It’s tough to tell because by that point the stadium will be nearly 70 years old. The infrastructure looks sound and there are enough suites to get by for now though. I just don’t know how modern stadiums will transform over the next 20 years.
CO: At roughly half the cost of what it would take to build a brand new stadium, are you happy with the results? Or do you feel like there should have been consideration to go with a brand new stadium? Was that even on the table?
JT: I’m glad the Chiefs renovated Arrowhead instead of building a new stadium. The cost aside, Kansas City has a great tradition and restoring Arrowhead allowed the organization to keep that intact.
CO: As a fan of a team who had a successful renovation of a storied stadium, do you have any fears that the renovation will serve as nothing more than an expensive band-aid or did the work done truly keep Arrowhead in line with the rest of the league’s stadiums?
JT: It kept the stadium at an acceptable level. Like I said, Arrowhead isn’t one of the brand new stadiums with all these amazing technological advancements but it’s unique because of its history. Keeping that historical part of it intact was as important as any of the new, fancy things that go into stadiums these days.
CO: KC’s tailgate culture is right up with that of the tailgating in Buffalo. Was that often talked about during the lead up to the renovations?
JT: Yes it was. Before deciding to renovate, there was some talk of moving the stadium downtown. (For a reference, Arrowhead is now basically in a giant parking lot, which is great for tailgating). Moving it downtown would have put the tailgating in jeopardy. So, sure, the tailgating played a role in keeping it where it is.
Thanks again to Joel for taking the time to answer our questions. Between the work done at Lambeau and Arrowhead there is certainly a mold the Bills could follow when it comes to considering renovation options for The Ralph. While it’s never going to be the most popular option, it’s more than likely the most economically feasible option, which could play a role in the decision making down the line.