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Tribal Warfare
01-05-2011, 03:34 AM
Empty seats at Arrowhead no sign that fans’ interest in Chiefs waning (http://www.kansascity.com/2011/01/04/2561609/empty-seats-at-arrowhead-no-sign.html#storylink=rss)
SAM MELLINGER COMMENTARY

This Chiefs season is fun, right? We’ve been wrong on Matt Cassel and wowed by Jamaal Charles and mostly impressed with Scott Pioli. We saw seven wins at Arrowhead Stadium and the AFC West championship and now a playoff game this weekend.

So many things to feel good about, and no matter what happens now, the story of this season will be told underneath a happy headline.

But there’s also an uncomfortable little sidebar illustrated by thousands of empty seats and talked about in Kansas City and around the league. Actually, you could describe it with the words Todd Haley screamed at Josh McDaniels during that infamous nonhandshake:

There’s a lot of (stuff) being talked about you.

In this case, it’s you, the Chiefs fans, being talked about. You’ve probably heard some of it. Maybe you’ve even nodded your head, yeah, a team that ranks 17th in attendance and 27th in capacity percentage probably shouldn’t be clinging to a reputation earned nearly 20 years ago as The Loudest Stadium in the NFL.

On the surface, sure, that makes sense. Nobody wants to be the old guy at the club, the last one to realize he’s hanging on to past glory.

But that doesn’t apply here. Chiefs fans still have it. No matter what you’ve heard.

• • •

This is admittedly difficult, but the first thing to do is to stop seeing empty seats as a screaming sign of uninterest. Attendance is a factor, obviously, but not the only one and maybe not even the most accurate one.

History says it’s the last one to come around, for instance, but OK, you want to know about ticket sales? How about Chiefs fans buying every available nonclub-level playoff ticket within the first 24 hours?

“That’s a microcosm of what you hope will happen next year,” says Mark Donovan, the team’s chief operating officer. “Our season-ticket base will grow, and as that grows there will be less supply of single-game tickets, and that will drive demand for all the other opportunities.”

Donovan says every important indicator toward ticket sales is up double digits, and in some cases, triple digits. The Chiefs’ Facebook page averages more than a million views per day, merchandise sales and Web traffic are up as much as 50 percent and TV ratings continue to be enormous.

Chiefs games averaged a 38.9 rating and 66 share this season, according to KCTV5, up more than 25 percent from last year. Comparing TV ratings over long spans of time is sort of an apples-to-oranges exercise, but this year’s numbers are more than 20 percent better than 2006, the most recent playoff season, and 10 percent better than 2004, the oldest numbers readily available.

As the trend of blackouts extends around the NFL, it’s worth remembering that Green Bay/Milwaukee is traditionally the only market with higher local ratings than Kansas City, though KC is sixth this season.

Blame any attendance problem on the Chiefs, not the fans. This was a lousy team for years with substandard fan service, leftover arrogance from the years when the product sold itself. By most accounts, the in-stadium experience is now better and the team is worth paying to watch again.

A bummer economy and higher unemployment and better technology will only continue to change how fan interest should be viewed, and the deeper you look the more you stop seeing all those empty seats as a symbol that Kansas City has somehow lost its love for the Chiefs.

You start to see it as a symbol that people just stopped paying to watch a dog product.

• • •

You remember how this season started, right? You remember Philip Rivers in front of 71,297 fans stomping his feet and screaming at his teammates after another delay-of game-penalty, right?

Todd Haley said that game was “how I visualize Arrowhead,” and thousands more felt as if they’d lived the 1990s again, when Kansas City earned the NFL’s Loudest Stadium title.

The Chiefs won that night, five-point underdogs beating the division’s four-time defending champion, and nobody in the building thought it could have happened without that crowd. Tomahawk chops, De-fense chants, Kansas City and Arrowhead transforming into the center of the football world on a Monday night.

You remember all of that, of course. Skepticism and economic realities trimmed some off attendance, but Kansas City hasn’t lost its passion for the Chiefs. This is just a place where people need a reason to spend their money.

The team did its part this season. Every indication is that — starting this weekend and into next season — the fans are coming back in the thousands to make Arrowhead Stadium rock again.

KC Jones
01-05-2011, 07:25 AM
I'd hate to see the club level filled with visiting Ravens fans, but we just might. I say bad on ownership for charging so much for those seats. What is it, like $350 to sit there for this game? That's a steep price for most football fans. Given that most of the folks who can afford it won't want to sit in the cold for 3+ hours - means those will stay fairly empty.

HonestChieffan
01-05-2011, 07:52 AM
Season Tick holders are none to happy about a number of changes and are all wondering about an expanded schedule and that added cost. The boys upstairs need to think long and hard about how they manage parking lots and deal with tailgating as well as how much people can afford.