Alan Kaspar of Omaha, Neb., was planning to take his wife and adult son and daughter to the Chiefs game against the Colts later this month.
By CHRISTINE VENDEL
The Kansas City Star
That was before he heard about a man being killed in the parking lot during the Chiefs’ last home game.
“Now,” Kaspar wrote in an email to The Star, “I’m not so sure I want to do it.”
The death of Kyle Van Winkle, 30, after a beating in Lot A of the Truman Sports Complex on Sunday, has raised concerns among some about safety and tailgating rules at Arrowhead Stadium.
The man who allegedly pummeled Van Winkle was a tailgater without a game ticket who was watching the game on TV in the parking lot. The man thought Van Winkle was a thief after Van Winkle apparently mistakenly climbed into someone else’s vehicle that was parked in the same row as Van Winkle’s ride. Police said there were no signs of a break-in.
Police are still investigating the death.
Chiefs spokesmen said they would not comment on the incident and did not respond to written questions about parking lot policy.
But police said they can’t recall a previous homicide at Arrowhead and that Van Winkle’s death appears to be an isolated incident.
The stadium and parking lots are patrolled on game days by more uniformed officers than any city in Missouri on any given day, said Capt. Tye Grant, who oversees the Kansas City police officers who work off-duty at home games.
The number of Kansas City officers who work on game days has doubled in the last five years, but Grant declined to provide an exact number for security reasons.
In addition to Kansas City officers, Jackson County deputies also patrol the property as well as private security guards and 290 ushers –– 774 security people in all. That translates to more than double the recommended standard in the public assembly industry, Grant said.
“We have a large visible presence inside and out of the stadium and the ability to adjust resources at any time,” he said. “There are hundreds of cameras that scan the stadium and large areas of the parking lot.”
Officers are assigned to small patrol areas either inside or outside the stadium. The officers report to sergeants, who report to a captain.
“It’s a little police department,” Grant said of how he helps run security on game days. “We have a command post, jail cells and a central dispatch area.”
Federal agents are also on site each game. They work with law enforcement as security officials plan for each game, Grant said.
Officers and security guards escort about two dozen people off Arrowhead property at each home game for causing trouble and refusing to comply with stadium rules. People who refuse to leave or who commit crimes are arrested.
Police arrest a handful of people at each game, Grant said. And people report just a handful of crimes at each game, according to police statistics requested for 1 Arrowhead Drive.
Those statistics show 22 crimes reported at the first five home games of this football season –– half of them thefts from vehicles. The most serious crimes reported were assaults, including two related to domestic violence.
Last year, victims reported 30 crimes during eight home games at Arrowhead. More than half were thefts, along with four assaults, and a few disorderly conducts and traffic accidents. Two assaults either involved a weapon or serious injuries.
Any time more than 70,000 people get together in one venue, Grant said, there will likely be some behavior that’s off-putting, such as excessive drinking or boisterous behavior.
“But most of the people are out there enjoying the day,” he said. “Very few of them decide not to act responsibly.”
Some fans say they are concerned that tailgaters who remain in the parking lot can continue to drink their own alcohol without much fear of being cut off. Fans inside the stadium are refused service if they appear intoxicated.
Although the Chiefs would not comment on their parking lot policy, sources said the team reviews its procedures on a game-by-game basis.
Arrowhead isn’t the only football stadium that allows tailgaters without game tickets.
Some football stadiums sell “tailgate only” parking passes, which allows stadiums to track how many people are strictly tailgating. Some of those stadiums direct tailgaters without tickets to a specific parking lot.
But each stadium is different in its design and parking configuration so each tailgating protocol is specific to the operation, experts say.
The NFL instituted a program in 2008 that allows fans to report problems immediately to stadium officials through text messages without having to leave their seats, confront the offender or identify themselves.
Fans can text CHIEFS, along with their location and issue to 69050. The service is available from three hours before the game to 30 minutes after.
About 100 fans use the service at each Chiefs home game to report everything from a mess in the restroom to a brewing fistfight. If a call requires a security or police response, officials in the stadium’s command center often will focus one of the hundreds of security cameras on the problem area and relay updates to responding officers.
Fans are grateful when officers remove someone who is acting out, Grant said.
“Sometimes when our officers respond to a reported disturbance, the whole section of fans will be pointing out one person,” he said. “When the officers take him away, the whole section is clapping and cheering.”