Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan made local waves in late March, when he mentioned that the team could entertain moving from Arrowhead Stadium once its lease expires in 2013.
Chiefs owner, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt addressed the matter as he spoke to Kansas City media members on Friday night, ahead of the second round of the NFL Draft.
“I know there’s been a lot of discussion about it over the last several months and maybe even going back almost a year to when the Royals announced that they were thinking about different opportunities,” said Hunt. “For us, the schedule is probably a little bit ahead of where it would naturally be because of the Royals wanting to be proactive. We have nine years left on our lease. We’re very happy in Arrowhead. We still think it’s one of the great venues in the National Football League.
“Having said that, we want to work with the Royals and try to help them accomplish their goal — whatever that ends up being. We’ve started the process of evaluating whether Arrowhead has a chance of going past the end of this lease. That’s going to be an ongoing process here over the next couple of years. I can't give you a definitive timeline on that. Because we’ve started early, the good news is we’re going to have plenty of time to make that evaluation and hopefully find a solution that not only works for the Kansas City Chiefs but works for the entire community.”
Hunt explained that the stadium — which was built and opened back in 1972 — for lack of a better terms — is old. So the first matter at hand would be whether the facility could handle the wear and tear of a new lease.
“I think one of the most important things that we’ll learn is whether, structurally, Arrowhead can go another 25 or 50 years,” said Hunt. “We’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Arrowhead this year (in 2022), which is really hard to believe because it still is a state-of-the-art stadium. It’s really a great venue. It’s one that I know fans from around the country enjoy coming to — sort of making their pilgrimage to Arrowhead. But it’s a cement stadium that’s been around for a while now, and we’ve got to make sure that it can go beyond the end of the lease, and that’s something that’ll be an ongoing evaluation, so that will be the first thing that we really need to figure out before we can think about the next step.”
Some have wondered if — with Kaufmann Stadium presumably out of the way in coming years — the Chiefs could renovate the current stadium and build around it with hotels, shops and restaurants, similar to the Legends development in Kansas City, Kansas.
Hunt explained that his family has discussed the idea in the past but has ultimately been reluctant to do so.
“It’s something that we’ve talked about over the years,” he said. “Our family is in the real estate development business here in Kansas City through Hunt Midwest. In the past, we’ve just felt that the location wasn’t perfect for additional development, but times change, right? Different areas of the city develop at different times, and I think that’s something that we’ll circle back around to as part of this evaluation.”
Of course, Arrowhead is special to Hunt. Born in 1965, he was just seven years old when it opened. Hunt was willing to admit that his heart hopes the answer lies in staying at Arrowhead Stadium.
“From a personal standpoint, it’s something that will be very challenging for me and the family, right? Because we have so many great memories at Arrowhead — obviously, it was a special place for my dad (Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt). In fact, he mentioned that he could pick one vacation spot in the world, it would be Arrowhead. So it’s not a decision that we’re going to take lightly — and it’s something that will be very tough emotionally... I actually remember being at the opening game. I don’t know that I exactly understood what I was looking at, but I remember being there for that — and some of probably my fondest memories from being a child were being down on the field kicking field goals with my dad with Jan Stenerud coaching me, so those are special memories for sure.”
Arrowhead Stadium last underwent a major renovation (that cost $375 million) in 2010. Donovan said last July that the team had invested nearly $40 million into the stadium over the past three years.
No decision has been made, but as the next 10 years trudge along, the team — and its owner — appear open to just about anything.