KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Kansas City Chiefs host their first home game of the 2019 NFL regular season this Sunday, fans will notice quite a few improvements around Arrowhead Stadium aimed at enhancing the game day experience.
From increased security efficiency to more variety in the food, here's a breakdown of what's new at Arrowhead in 2019.
The Chiefs replaced 32,000 seats in the upper deck. The new seats include a cup holder, something fans never had in the upper deck. The team's Vice President of Stadium Operations Brandon Hamilton said the team needed to remove the seats for a waterproofing project and found it fitting to replace the seats at the same time.
The team left 2,000 old seats underneath the east scoreboard because it is exploring possible changes to that part of the complex which could require removing seats. Hamilton said they didn't want to put new seats in only to remove them a year or two later, depending on what the team decides to do.
The pre-game tradition of banging a drum has a new permanent home. The Chiefs created a drum deck in the upper level under the west scoreboard.
Hamilton said the Chiefs wanted to put the drum ceremony front and center, bringing pre-game festivities closer to the fans. Previously, the drum ceremony was in a corner of the field.
Sunday Jamaal Charles will bang the drum before the game. He holds the record for most rushing yards as a Chief.
Prior to the fourth quarter, GEHA President and CEO Darren Taylor will bang the drum as the Tony DiPardo Spirit Leader. GEHA is the title sponsor the drum deck.
"We're very excited to have a home game. Starting the season with two road games we've all been anticipating and waiting for this moment. We're excited. We're anticipating the stadium being full and electric come Sunday," Mike Cukyne, Chiefs vice president or media content and digital operations, said.
Fans will see a state of the art scoreboard on the west side of Arrowhead Stadium. The cabinet is the same, but the insides and screen make the scoreboard one of the best in the NFL.
Hamilton said HDR technology provides the best clarity and å 9,000-nit rating allows the team to increase output on the screen making it perfectly visible even on bright, sunny game days. The Chiefs say Arrowhead is the only NFL stadium with that rating.
The scoreboard is 150 feet wide and 37 feet tall.
While teams focused on big changes fans will notice, another crew worked on an equally important, but less obvious task.
During the offseason, the Chiefs organization repaired concrete and waterproofed the upper deck by adding a urethane membrane to the surfaces. Hamilton explained the upper deck is the roof of the club level.
"Water is probably your worst enemy when you're taking care of a venue of this size," Hamilton said. "It will degrade the concrete, it will tear apart the finishes and your club spaces. It's something we try to protect the stadium and create longevity for the stadium."
Lamar Hunt Legacy Seat
During each home game, the Chiefs will reserve two seats in section 121 for their new Lamar Hunt Legacy Seat honoree and their guest.
Hunt founded the team. To celebrate its 60th season, Chiefs staff decided to honor the team's late founder by recognizing someone in the community who lives the four pillars of Hunt and the organization: win with character, unite our community, inspire fans and honor tradition.
“Lamar loved football, and he was so passionate about the fans of Kansas City, so to be able to honor fans that embody the spirit of Lamar Hunt is so special to us,” Jayne Martin, Chiefs director of fan experience, said.
Sunday, Connor Hill will sit in the Lamar Hunt Legacy Seat. A committee, which includes Hunt's son and current Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, chose Hill.
The 12-year-old will represent Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City Sunday. Connor beat neuroblastoma twice. During his battles, Connor and his family stayed at a Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City. After more than four years of being cancer-free, Connor now volunteers for the organization. The Chiefs say his strength and commitment reflect Hunt's spirit.
The legacy seat is underneath Hunt's name on the team's Ring of Honor in the lower bowl.
The Chiefs spent more than $1 million to upgrade security around Arrowhead Stadium.
The most obvious change for fans is they no longer need to remove items from their pockets when going through metal detectors upon entering the stadium.
"This technology takes [security] to another level," Matt Kenny, Chiefs vice president of stadium services and event, said. " Security is a non-negotiable option when you come to an NFL stadium. Certainly here in Kansas City it's really important to the [Hunt] family, the Chiefs and of course our fans."
Long gone are the days where a hamburger or hot dog were your only food options at a stadium. This year, Aramark and Levy restaurants are rolling out plenty of taste-bud sizzling options.
From a Monte Cristo waffle sandwich to a spicy sausage with cream cheese, the possibilities are almost endless.
“We want to add to the entertainment on the field and give fans something they would never put together themselves; something a little outlandish, but something they can only get with us," Erin Wishon, senior executive chef for Aramark at Arrowhead, said.
Two local restaurants will open second locations inside Arrowhead Stadium this season as part of the club expanding BBQ Alley. Plowboys Barbecue of Blue Springs will be available in sections 121 and 339. Smoke Brewing Company out of Lee's Summit will now operate in both sections 122 and 316.
Kenny said more concession stands will use two lines to improve efficiency. Fans will order and pay in one line, then move to a second line to pick up their completed order.
The pro shop at Arrowhead Stadium is stocked with Patrick Mahomes gear and items commemorating the team's 60th season.
Aramark operates the team store at Arrowhead Stadium. General Manager Tim Witkowski said Chiefs fans love history so there are a variety of throwback merchandise honoring past logos and styles.
But fans may love the future even more, especially when the future includes Mahomes, the current NFL MVP.
"If it has [Mahomes' number] 15 on it, we try to get it here," Witkowski said. "We need everyone's help because Mahomes is only three in jersey sales right now. We need him to be No. 1. So c'mon down to the pro shop and grab his gear."
The shop at the stadium is open during the week and on game days.
This season the Chiefs launched a poster series. At each home game, the team will sell a different souvenir-style poster.
Local artists created each poster. Chiefs Director of Marketing Joe Sargent said the posters showoff the artistic talents of Chiefs Kingdom.
"We really wanted to find something unique and find a way to highlight both the matchup and Arrowhead and we found a bunch of local artists who are really excited and Chiefs fans already," Sargent said.
The team will sell 1,000 copies of each poster for $20 each. They are available at the pro shop the Tuesday before each home game. Money from the poster sales will go to a yet to be determined arts-focused group in the Kansas City area.
The Chiefs say the Hunt Family spent about $12 million this offseason on stadium improvements.
The Chiefs play the Baltimore Ravens at noon Sunday, Sept. 22.