What a difference two weeks make.
Adam Ungashick of Kansas City and friends took less than 13 minutes to go from the tollbooth at Gate 5 to a parking spot at Arrowhead Stadium for the Kansas City Chiefs game against the New York Jets Sunday afternoon.
That was a fraction of the time it took when he passed through Gate 5 two hours before the Chiefs’ regular-season opener on Sept. 11.
“We were not parked until 26 minutes before the game,” Ungashick said. That meant he missed meeting up with others to tailgate.
The Chiefs’ regular season got off to a rough start on Sept. 11 — at least when it came to the parking. Thousands of frustrated fans who attended the game took their seats much later than expected.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan said last week that the organization had “screwed up” and vowed things would be better for Sunday’s game.
Although there was an improvement on Sunday, Chiefs fans are tough critics.
“It was passable,” Ungashick said.
This was the first game of the season for Brandon Stein. He said parking was “definitely, definitely a lot worse” than previous years.
“Parking was a little slow,” he said. “I feel it is kinda like you have to choose which side you come in on . . . We came in on the wrong side and had to spend about 45 minutes getting here.”
His group ending up parking in Lot A near Kauffman Stadium, despite arriving at 12:45 p.m. for a 3:25 p.m. game. Normally, they park in the lots much closer to Arrowhead Stadium.
“The slow time to get to park is the biggest downer,” he said.
The Chiefs implemented tailgating and parking changes this year. Among them was combining what was known as general parking — cash parking on game day — with red reserve parking. There is only one base tier of parking.
The Chiefs urged fans to buy prepaid parking passes for $30 rather than paying $40 in cash on game day. The Chiefs believed the prepaid passes would improve traffic flow by cutting transaction times in half.
But more cars than expected arrived at Gate 5 because fans believed that was the only pass gate, the Chiefs said. The organization blamed that belief on a communication issue. Gate 5 accepts passes only, but other gates accept passes, too, as well as cash.
That caused other issues too, including traffic flow after passing through the tollbooth.
Fans continued to complain that they had no choice on the lots they could park in and that they had to drive past lots that had been closed despite having open parking spaces.
Season ticket-holder Marty Gomez of Raytown said traffic was a lot lighter than the season opener. It only took him about 20 minutes to get parked.
“I’m not happy with changes,” he said. “Before, as a season ticket-holder, you had red reserve parking . . . now it’s more of a free-for-all — first-come-first served.”
Michelle and Joseph G. Patterson of Kansas City believe the Chiefs should return to the red reserve parking to reward season ticket-holders and give them some prestige.
“Season ticket-holders should be shown some respect,” said Michelle Patterson. “We pay good money.”
Daniel Styles of Wichita was expecting similar problems to the season opener. While it took longer for him to park than in previous years, it was a lot easier Sunday than what he expected to be.
“I thought it would be really crowded to be honest,” said Styles. “When we got here, it was spaced out more than it usually is and there’s more room in between the lanes because the cars are parked more evenly.”