You’ve heard the advertisements.
“The new Arrowhead. New body. Same soul.”
After seeing the mostly-finished product on Friday morning when Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt led a tour of the renovated Arrowhead Stadium, it is clear that the Chiefs are at least half right.
The new body is magnificent. From the upgraded amenities to the areas of specialized interest that depict not only the history of the Chiefs but pay homage to the vision of Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League, the new building is spectacular.
Same soul . . . fans will have to provide the answer to that.
But make no mistake, on your first trip to the new Arrowhead – whether it is July 25 when Manchester United plays against the Wizards or when the Chiefs play their first home pre-season game against the Eagles on August 27 – schedule in some extra time to embrace the experience.
Where to start?
Every fan will have access to much of the stadium – from the Hall of Honor on the lower level of the south side of the stadium to Horizon level from which you can see downtown and the Country Club Plaza. Both are worth the visit.
In the upper level, there are outdoor pavilions along the sideline with bar areas and concession stands and room to play your own game of touch football if you were so inclined.
On the ground level behind the end zone seats, there are displays honoring the state football champions of Missouri (behind the east end zone) and Kansas (behind the west end zone) which will change as new champions are crowned each season.
The Penthouse Suite, above the Horizon level, also will be available to anyone with the purchase of a Penthouse Suite ticket, sold on a single-game basis. The Suite will hold more than 90 people, but groups of any size can buy tickets one a one-game basis.
For those with club-level tickets, there is a large indoor concourse with four gathering spots: one on the east side of the stadium called “The Foolish Club” in honor of the seven men who founded the American Football League. That area is complete with a display of the original logos of the Los Angeles Chargers, the Titans of New York, the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Texans, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Houston Oilers.
At the opposite end of the stadium is “Club IV” in honor of the Chiefs win in Super Bowl IV. Two other gathering points are along the north and south sidelines behind the club-level seats including a series of new suites in the location of the former press box called “broadcast suites.” All the clubs have a large gathering area with food and drink available.
My favorite – and I have to admit being a sucker for the history of the game – is the new north entrance in an area they have named the “Founders Plaza.” A nine-foot-tall statue of Lamar Hunt will be unveiled later this month. Just behind the statue etched into the concrete entryway is the original AFL logo. Just before you enter the stadium, you can retrace a life-sized playbook diagram of “65 toss power trap.” Seeing the diagram will bring back memories of Hank Stram strutting along the sideline of Super Bowl IV, cackling as he calls the play.
Clark Hunt calls this area of the stadium “the most special area of the new project for our family because it harkens back to the AFL days.” The Founders Club also will be located there. It will be a private club, built to have a sports-bar feeling with memberships available to any Chiefs fan.
Dennis Wellner, one of the founders of the sports architecture firm Populous, says it also is one of his favorite spots in the stadium. He said in his 27 years of designing 14 NFL stadium, he had never worked with a family that took as much care of a piece of the project as the Hunt family.
All the club areas of the stadium have been designed for use year-round for groups holding dinners or receptions or meetings. Some areas of the stadium can accommodate groups up to 1,000 people.
For the numbers crunchers: there are 115-million pounds of new concrete, 10-million linear feet of steel rebar (that would stretch from Kansas City to Orlando and back if laid end-to-end), 2,149 new 32-inch Sony television sets throughout the stadium so you don’t have to miss a single play; 586 women’s toilets (almost double the previous total of 294), 63 concession stands (up from 47) and 364 seats for handicapped fans (up from 124 previously).
For the “green” among you, the new plumbing fixtures are all low-flow units that use about 50 percent less water than the previous fixtures. The landscaped surface around the stadium was increased by 40 percent, which reduced storm-water runoff. Specialized lighting fixtures use 40 percent less energy that the existing fixtures and the new mechanical equipment are higher-efficiency units than the previous equipment.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is the detail in which everything is done. There is almost no wall that remains uncovered with reminders of Chiefs high moments, big plays and great players everywhere. It is the sort of attention to detail that personified everything Lamar Hunt wanted for fans of the Chiefs. Wellner said he received numerous detailed drawings of ideas from Hunt before Hunt’s death in December of 2006.
Clark Hunt summed up what his family wanted in the project, telling a story of one of his final conversations with his father.
“When my father was very ill, Jack Steadman and I were with him in the hospital room,” Clark Hunt said. “One of the last things he said was ‘Make sure we get the new Arrowhead done right.’
“I think if he could see it, he would say well done. I know he would be thrilled with the stadium.”
I would concur. Everything about the new Arrowhead rings of Lamar Hunt and his desire to make the experience good for the fans.
As for the “soul” . . . the grand dame maybe wearing new clothes and has fixed her makeup. But I’m thinking it will take a few more wins on the field before the “Same Soul” returns.