Chiefs owner outlines changes to get the red back in Arrowhead

Category: News 0

The Kansas City Star
Clark Hunt is sitting at a small table in his enormous suite at Arrowhead Stadium, hands in his lap, his voice steady and professional. But really, he may as well be standing in front of you all, arms outstretched, his words as sweet as he’s capable of making them sound:

The Chiefs owner is here, talking to you, emphasizing a philosophy shift in the franchise he holds so dear. Hunt wants you to expect something very different from the Chiefs you came to know in recent years. Some of what he is doing sounds very cool for fans, some of it will help the team make more money. Some of it will do both.

Hunt knows it won’t mean much if the team doesn’t win, but while the new football men he hired work on that part, it’s significant that the man who took so much heat last year — taunting banners flying over the stadium, nasty name-calling, stacks of angry letters — is extending a hand.

“Certainly the football side of the Chiefs the last four years was more guarded in how information was shared externally,” he says. “There’s still teams in the league that operate like that, but what I’ve seen in the last 12 months, attending ownership meetings and being on the digital committee, is an understanding that, hey, the model is shifting and we have to be more open.”

Hunt is doing everything he can to make sure the hiring of coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey is the end to a brutal four-year run marked by arrogance and detachment, bottoming out with a 2-14 thud last season that made Arrowhead quiet and fans wearing bags on their heads.

Hunt won’t blame the problems on anyone. He doesn’t bring up any names. But when Scott Pioli was hired and given total football control four years ago, he brought a hyper-secretive and isolated style that — especially as the losses piled up — turned off many loyal fans.

But it was more than just losing that turned off many fans, so Hunt and club president Mark Donovan know that more than just winning is needed to bring them back. Consumers fans — have more power and more options than ever, so everyone lost with that old model. The Chiefs had empty seats, quiet or booing crowds, and fans who felt pushed away to prove it.

That’s not how the Chiefs became Kansas City’s passion. That’s not how they became a wildly profitable business.

Without a strong sense of connection, many fans drifted, and the Chiefs are now trying to woo them back with gifts and technology. The Chiefs were the first NFL team to use paperless tickets last year, and going forward, this is will be their vehicle of choice.

“Really, we want the experience with our fan base to be one where they’re an insider,” Hunt says. “Where they feel like an insider. Where they’re getting to see things, and hear things, and learn things that people generally don’t have an opportunity to do.”

The key to this is the season-ticketholder card the Chiefs created last year. Paperless tickets make it easier for fans to transfer seats or replace lost items. Now the club is adding a loyalty program that is part Foursquare, part frequent flier account and the first of its kind in the NFL.

The buzzword here is value. Part of winning back fans is to create more value in that card than mere admittance to the stadium. For instance, go to team events like next week’s draft party, and you’ll earn points. Show your card at various club sponsors and you’ll receive a discount. You get the idea.

Collect enough points and you can “buy” experiences that otherwise aren’t for sale, like pregame sideline passes or dinner with Reid.

The card is also important to the Chiefs, because they can gather data. Scanning those cards tells them all sorts of information — how early you arrive at the stadium, what you buy when you’re there, how often you attend club events during the week, etc.

You can look at this part in two ways. The Chiefs can use the information to maximize their profits (when and how to better staff the stadium, for instance) or to improve the efficiency of a fan’s game day experience. Both are true.

All NFL teams are working to bring fans into their stadiums instead of having them home on their couches. There are league-wide initiatives, like certain replays in the stadium that aren’t shown at home, and the Chiefs are working on other ways to enhance the stadium experience — cameras following players from their cars to the locker room, better cell phone reception, more fantasy football stats, etc.

This is all coming at a crucial time for the Chiefs. They still call Arrowhead “the loudest stadium in the NFL,” but that has been more of an outdated reminder of better times than an honest point of pride in recent years. They have fallen behind.

Again, the best way to change that is for the Chiefs to win. But fans have been disappointed by far more than losses in recent years. Heck, the Chiefs still haven’t won a playoff game since January 1994 so this isn’t a front-running fan base. Just one that wants to feel their love reciprocated.

The Chiefs think this is the way. They’re trying to replace the disconnect of the past four years with something closer to the party of the 1990s — and they’re doing it with the latest technology and a more open philosophy.

In other words, they want you back. And they’re changing to do it.

Read more here:
To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to [email protected] or follow him at

Read more here:

Related Articles

Add Comment