On the surface, it’s a bit hard to surmise the Chiefs have an attendance problem, per se.
After all, the club ranked ninth in the league in attendance last year with an average of 73,328 fans per game, despite being one of the NFL’s smallest markets.
Still, the numbers do show a downward trend, miniscule as it might be. Despite the Chiefs’ success the last four years under Andy Reid, the club’s attendance has dropped a tad each season since 2013, when an average of 75,359 fans trekked to Arrowhead Stadium.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt isn’t sure there’s a simple solution to reversing that trend, however. Televisions are bigger, clearer — and yet, cheaper — than ever, and more fans are choosing to avoid the expensive and timely hassle of game day by simply watching their favorite team at home.
It’s an issue affecting the entire league, Hunt conceded.
“I don’t know that there is a silver bullet on that, and the at-home experience is going to continue to get better,” Hunt explained. “That’s just the nature of technology.”
So the Chiefs’ challenge right now, he said, is to make sure the team’s in-stadium experience is — in his words — as good or compelling as the at-home experience, and unique in certain respects.
To that end, the Chiefs have an advantage some other markets don’t. The Arrowhead tailgating experience is an entrenched staple of Kansas City’s fabric, and it is something that continues to draw fans to Arrowhead, even in today’s premium TV era.
“Everybody loves getting to Arrowhead a couple of hours early, cooking some barbecue and so forth,” Hunt said. “So we’re just going to have to continue to think about how we keep the in-stadium experience better than it was the year before to compete with the technology.”
That’s part of the reason the Chiefs created a new viewing area at Arrowhead over the offseason, which they dubbed the Locker Room Club. With a capacity of about 100 fans, the new viewing area is located just steps away from the Chiefs’ locker room and 50-yard-line entrance to the field, which allows fans to get closer to players than they otherwise would with regular seats.
Other NFL teams have similar features in their stadiums, including the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Both of those stadiums are new and state-of-the-art, however, while Arrowhead opened in 1972 and was renovated in 2010.
But with 13 years remaining on the Chiefs’ lease, Hunt said he will continue to monitor exciting features in new stadiums and explore more ways to upgrade Arrowhead.
“There certainly is a sharing of best practices in the league and also looking to other organizations who do a great job of entertaining people when they come to their amusement park — take Disney as an example,” Hunt said.
One area that could stand to be upgraded in a significant way, Hunt conceded, are the Arrowhead locker room areas, particularly for the home team.
“Our home locker hasn’t changed a lot in the 40-plus years that we’ve been there,” Hunt said. “It’s expanded when the rosters increased in size and we have made improvements to it on a small scale.
“We’re a little bit landlocked with the space we have down there, but certainly we’ll look to continue improving as we go.”