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Chiefs and 49ers will play Super Bowl LIV in the elements

Fans will be under cover, but players will feel the effects of the weather conditions.

Preparing for Super Bowl LIV Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A week from this Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs will play the San Francisco 49ers for all the marbles: the 2019 NFL championship in Super Bowl LIV.

The last time the Chiefs played in this game was after the 1969 season, when the Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 during Super Bowl IV in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. It was the final Super Bowl between and AFL and NFL teams; as set out in an agreement between the leagues before the 1966 season, the American Football League was absorbed into the NFL immediately afterward.

In those days, domed stadiums were a novelty; professional football was an outdoor sport that was played in the fall and winter. So if the championship game happened to be played in a snowstorm, so be it.

But the leagues didn’t want their neutral-site championship game (a new idea) to be played in the cold or snowy weather that had plagued many of the postseason games preceding the merger agreement.

So through the first decade of Super Bowls, the games were staged in warm-weather cities — so that weather would be less of a factor in the open-air stadiums then available. (Oddly, the world’s first domed stadium — the Astrodome in Houston — never hosted a Super Bowl). Through the 1975 season, the game had been played in Miami’s Orange Bowl four times, Tulane Stadium three times, the Los Angeles Coliseum twice and Rice Stadium in Houston once.

Things have changed since then. Seven of the last 10 NFL championships have been played in stadiums that are traditional domes — or at least have retractable roofs. These kinds of venues have allowed the game to played in cold-weather cities like Indianapolis, Detroit and Minneapolis.

But just like the last time the Chiefs played in the championship, Super Bowl LIV will be played in an open-air stadium: Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, which opened as Joe Robbie Stadium in 1987 as the home of the Miami Dolphins — who still call it home.

But it’s an open-air stadium with a difference: its seating areas are covered with a roof. Like Texas Stadium in Dallas — which pioneered the concept and was used from 1971 through 2008 — the roof (more like a canopy) has a football-field size hole, meaning that games are played in the elements while fans are (largely) shielded from sun or rain.

An interior view of Hard Rock Stadium showing the canopy added in 2016
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Miami in January doesn’t have a high probability of rain. On average, it’s about 16%. The current long-term weather forecast calls for a 20% chance of rain on Super Bowl Sunday — preceded by two days with a 40% chance of rain.

There is, however, one other unique thing about the stadium.

Unlike Texas Stadium — which was built that way from the ground up — Hard Rock Stadium began as a traditional open-air stadium; the roof (more like a canopy) was added as part of a renovation completed before the 2016 season. This means that wind will tend to have more of an effect than in an otherwise-enclosed building that simply has a hole in its roof.

Aerial Photography of Dolphin Stadium - Site of Super Bowl XLI - January 18, 2007
Hard Rock Stadium — then called Dolphin Stadium — in 2007
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Chiefs actually participated in the first game played in what was then Joe Robbie Stadium — although participated might be too strong a word — losing to the Miami Dolphins 42-0 on October 11, 1987. The game took place during that season’s NFL players’ strike; both teams were fielding (mostly) replacement players. The strike was settled after the following week’s games — while the Dolphins were on the road — so it was the only strike game played in Miami.

Since that rather inauspicious beginning, the Chiefs have played there 10 times, winning only three of their games against the Dolphins. For Chiefs fans of the 1990s, two of those games stand out: their 17-16 loss in the 1991 Wild Card playoff game and their 27-17 Wild Card defeat in 1994. The Chiefs haven’t played there since 2014 when they defeated the Dolphins (including starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and backup Matt Moore) 34-15 in 2014.

The 49ers have played there six times — winning Super Bowl XXIII over the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 in 1988 and defeating the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX to conclude the 1994 season. The last time the 49ers played in the stadium was in 2016, when they lost to the Dolphins 31-24.

None of that bodes particularly well for Chiefs fans who have spent 50 seasons waiting for another chance at the title — at least if you believe a venue itself can carry some kind of mojo.

But let’s not worry about that. As we learned on Sunday, all Kansas City Chiefs curses are officially broken.

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