The Kansas City Chiefs will play a division rival — the Los Angeles Chargers — on this week’s edition of Monday Night Football in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca.
Ever since April — when we first learned the Chiefs were again scheduled to play a Monday night game in Mexico City — there have been concerns that the field would not be up to NFL standards. And for good reason.
As you’ll recall, last season’s game between the Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams was moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum less than a week before it was to be played, after reports indicated the Estadio Azteca field was in poor conditon following a rainy season, a heavy schedule of soccer games and a Shakira concert.
Many fans for both teams who had scheduled trips to Mexico City to see the game were badly inconvenienced. So when Chiefs owner Clark Hunt met with reporters on Wednesday, one of the first questions was whether the team was sure the field would be in good condition.
”We are sure, yes,” Hunt declared. “Our field staff has been in contact with the league, [which has] been in contact with the representatives in Mexico City who have been taking care of the field. It’s a completely different field — and it’s in much better condition than it was last year.”
One of the problems last season was that Estadio Azteca had a newly-installed field that was a blend of natural grass and synthetic materials. So once it became known that the field was in poor condition, simply re-sodding the field — which can be done in just a few days — wasn’t an option.
In late May, we learned that Mexico City officials intended to change the field back to natural grass during a break Estadio Azteca’s schedule, so that even if the field were to become damaged, it could be put back into playing shape quickly.
By mid-July, the new natural grass field had been installed — and had also been inspected and approved by NFL representatives.
”I was hopeful that we would have a chance to go to Mexico City,” said Hunt, who has long been a supporter of the International Series games. “I think all the international games are very important for the league — and they’re also important for the Chiefs from a branding standpoint. I frankly did not expect we would be going to Mexico City so fast; it was not something that we lobbied the league for. When I looked at our schedule, I didn’t think it would work out from a scheduling standpoint. I guess at the end of the day, the Chargers were willing to give up a home game down there — even though we’re a division team.”
On Monday night, Hunt will get his wish.