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Then and now: Life in 1970 Kansas City

Jan Stenerud
Posted at 7:59 AM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 07:00:54-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — To take a look back at the time when the Chiefs won their first and only Super Bowl is to travel back to a time when Kansas City looked much different.

In early 1970, the current KCI Airport hadn’t opened to the public.

Crown Center was still coming together while areas such as the Power & Light District and the Crossroads Arts District were decades away from being what they are today.

TWA served as one of the largest employers in the area while parts of the historic stockyards were still in operation.

For the Chiefs and Royals, home games were still played at Municipal Stadium while Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium were being built.

“A lot of department stores had moved away from downtown. It was in a decline that lasted through the 80s and 90s,” said Missouri Valley Special Collections Manager Jeremy Drouin. “Traveling was a little different. You couldn’t take Route 71 and it didn’t take you through south town.”

For former KCMO mayor Charles Wheeler, who was still in his role as a Jackson County judge at the time, the differences led to certain feeling in the city.

“It was a very quiet type of town. There were no skyscrapers or construction cranes,” he said. “Lack of transportation was a big problem back in those days. They’d sold all the street cars.”

Aside from the lack of some of Kansas City’s current sites and landmarks, the United States was experiencing one of the most tumultuous times in its history.

Protests against the Vietnam War were taking place as riots connected to the civil rights movement also occurred, including in Kansas City in 1968.

Through all the challenges of the time, the Kansas City Chiefs rose to prominence and won the Super Bowl title.

According to Wheeler, the title win came at a crucial time.

“It was a great shot in the arm,” he said. “That’s the best thing you could say.”

Now 50 years later, the franchise once again finds itself on one of the biggest stages of sports.

With both Kansas City and the country dealing with new issues, Drouin told 41 Action News that the Chiefs could help bring people together in the area.

“I think sports is sort of a unifier,” he said. “I think people can look beyond politics and other things going on.”

For Wheeler, who is 93 years old and hoping for a Chiefs win, the Super Bowl appearance could once again help push Kansas City forward.

“Everybody is excited in Kansas City today because of our success,” he said. “We’ve gone through a 50-year renovation. A new spirit is in town.”