Crystal Smalley, decked in Chiefs leggings and a Kansas City flag draped over her shoulders, walked from row to row of parked cars Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium before the Chiefs’ regular-season opener against the Chargers.
Phone in hand and giggling, Smalley was taking photos of fans breaking the Chiefs’ new tailgating regulations so she could post them on Facebook.
“It’s so funny,” she said. “Obviously these lines aren’t doing the job. People just don’t follow directions.”
This year, fans are allowed 8 feet of tailgating space behind their vehicles, the parameters marked by yellow lines. The goal was to keep the aisles clear for access by emergency vehicles.
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But as the regular season kicked off Sunday, so did the potential issues with the revamped system.
For the most part, tailgaters kept large items, such as grills or tables, behind the yellow lines. Others took the streaks of yellow as more of a suggestion, dragging cornhole setups and chairs out into the aisles.
Enforcement appeared spotty.
“I think they’re trying to keep it organized, but change is hard,” said Rahman Sayeed, a season-ticket holder for 20 years. “People are used to just kind of hanging out and tailgating without having lines that they’ve got to worry about. I’ve seen golf carts go down the lines and they try to move people out, and then they just come right back again as soon as the golf cart passes.”
Security personnel on carts roamed the parking lots to encourage people to keep their possessions behind the lines. Multiple people on the ground from Whelan Security, the company in charge of Arrowhead Stadium security, declined to comment on how the day had gone, and what kinds of issues they had dealt with.
The Chiefs also declined to comment.
The overall traffic-flow and parking situation was a mixed bag. Fans who arrived early (gates opened at 8 a.m. for the noon kickoff) suffered through less congestion and confusion. But even early in the day, a pell-mell approach to parking proved problematic.
Parking personnel attempted to direct fans to particular spots, but many didn’t heed instructions. Instead, even half an hour before the game, there were still pockets of parking spaces in which no one had parked. And by that time, they could not be accessed any longer.
For some, these miniature oases of space were welcome alternatives to following the yellow-line rule.
“I’m surprised they let this happen,” said Tony Alvarez, gesturing across the aisle from his tailgate scene, where five open spaces had been commandeered by surrounding tailgaters. “There are a bunch of free spaces. … Their excuse for (the new rules) was for emergencies. If there was an emergency, we would move right away. It seems to be an inane excuse.”
In addition to the new rules, the Chiefs also increased game-day parking fees from $30 to $40. Fans can still purchase advance passes this season for $30.
But many are irritated about paying more money at the gate for less space in the lot.
“I’m OK with why they want to put in the lines, but they should be every other lane instead of every lane,” said Dan Baker, whose family has had season tickets since 1966. “If you’re going to charge fans $40 to park here, you need to give (fans) room to party.”
The party may have been more difficult than usual to come by in the parking lots. But fans found it in Arrowhead Stadium.
Outside annoyances initially carried on inside, as the Chiefs trailed 24-3 by the third quarter. But a Tyreek Hill touchdown reception kicked off a comeback, and Spencer Ware’s 5-yard TD run tied the game at 27-27 with 1:03 to play.
By that time, nearly half the people in the stadium had filed out. But those who stayed were witnesses to the biggest Chiefs comeback in franchise history.
Alex Smith bulled over the goal line in the Chiefs’ first overtime possession for the game-winner in a 33-27 victory, and fans still in attendance erupted. Their tomahawk chant, as the Chiefs celebrated on the field, was loud enough for those already streaming out of the parking lot to hear.