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Chiefs talk through preparing Arrowhead Stadium for the World Cup

The Chiefs team president discussed the soccer championship with the media on Friday.

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If you haven’t heard, Kansas City has been selected as a host site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America. Soccer is by far the most played sport in the world — so make no mistake: the World Cup in Kansas City will be the largest single event this region has ever seen.

It is tough to fathom, but the sheer size and spectacle of the World Cup dwarfs any NFL Draft, Super Bowl or World Series.

“It’s a special time to be a part of the Chiefs organization and a special time to be a Chiefs fan,” said Kansas City Chiefs team president Mark Donovan, as he spoke to the media on Friday afternoon. “It’s also a really special time to be part of this community. We’re proud of being a part of the community and being a contributor to the community.

“Kansas City is on a really, really good trend when you look at what we’re doing and you think about the World Cup and what it will do for Sporting KC, what it will do for their facility... potentially multiple countries will be basing their teams in Kansas City and the impact of those fans.

“I mean, these people come for a month... and they travel from that city to the various matches.”

To be fair, hosting the World Cup is not free of financial risks.

The Michigan Journal of Economics recently published a piece outlining the financial risks that World Cup host nations incur, using the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as an example.

According to Forbes, FIFA is reaping 7.5 billion USD of revenue while Qatar is receiving only 1.56 billion USD. Qatar’s revenue is primarily coming from tourism and business travel. Although this seems like a tiny number compared to what they are spending, the reality of is that most World Cup host nations do not end up profiting from having the tournament on their soil. Many things built for the tournament are often unable to be turned back into hard cash.

The main takeaway that host countries come to realize after hosting the World Cup is how much of a laborious and financial project it is. The countless hours and dollars spent to accommodate teams, locals, and tourists while adhering to land and economic policies show that the rewarding satisfaction of hosting a successful event does not come without extreme monetary impacts.

These possible risks have not escaped the Chiefs.

All the work that needs to be done to upgrade the stadium must be completed in the years 2024 to 2026. For Donovan, that leaves a primary question on the mind of his team.

“What are we going to do for the World Cup to be compliant, to host that amazing event that potentially we could keep, or benefit from, or not have to redo? Versus... we’ve got to make the building requirement proof for World Cup, and we’ve got to do that absolutely perfect.”

The Chiefs also have to plan long-term for the future. Kansas City’s lease at Arrowhead is up in 2031. How much do you invest in upgrades to a stadium that you may move on from in eight years?

The Chiefs will also be sacrificing revenue from multiple concert events at Arrowhead Stadium while the upgrades are underway. Arrowhead is hosting Luke Combs, Billy Joel, Beyonce and Taylor Swift this summer alone.

“Think about a summer when you don’t have that because you’re in the middle of construction for the World Cup,” explained Donovan. “I mention all that because I think it reiterates the commitment that the Hunt family has made to this region.”

On top of this, the Chiefs have to play a football season pretty quickly after the World Cup. Right now, the tournament is set to run from June 11 to July 19, 2026. If the Chiefs follow the same schedule as they did this year, that would mean that players would already be reporting for camp while the World Cup is still being played.

Donovan said that the organization isn’t willing to sacrifice the Chiefs fan gameday experience at the cost of changes they made to the stadium for the World Cup.

“It’s a huge puzzle piece for our operations team,” he admitted. “It’s going to be a challenge, and it’s going to be a three or four-year challenge as we roll this out.”

To highlight this, Donovan told a story about an interaction he had with Chiefs owner, chairman and CEO Clark Hunt.

“This is one of the first things that Clark said to us,” recounted Donovan. “‘We need to host the World Cup because of what it is and what it can do for this region, and we need to make sure that every single Chiefs fan has the exact same experience in ‘24, ‘25, ‘26 and ‘27. So figure it out.’”

With a charge like that, I have faith that they will.

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