NewsLocal News2026 FIFA World Cup


Renovations underway at Arrowhead, which passes 1st test as soccer venue

Arrowhead World Cup renovations
Posted at 8:13 PM, Apr 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-19 21:35:34-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than 72,000 soccer fans packed into GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium last weekend, further burnishing Kansas City’s claim as the Soccer Capital of America.

Sporting Kansas City hosted Inter Miami FC and Lionel Messi — a game that drew the largest crowd in club history, stadium history and state history. It also was the second-highest attended soccer game in the world last weekend.

“You have to give credit to the Sporting folks and obviously the draw of Messi,” Kansas City Chiefs Executive Vice President of Operations and Events Matt Kenny said. “But to see that crowd in here for a soccer match, we were all really pleased with the outcome.”

“The Messi game” was the first soccer match played at Arrowhead since it was chosen as a host site for six matches in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Fans probably noticed a chunk of missing seats in the southeast corner of the lower bowl, the first sign of renovations to Arrowhead in preparation for the World Cup.

“(It’s a) four-phase project with the bulk of the work really occurring in 2025,” Kenny said. “This year, we've started with installing a vacuum ventilation system, a requirement from FIFA. So, the hole that you see there will house that unit.”

The ventilation system will ensure that, no matter the weather conditions, the playing surface at Arrowhead will remain playable for future soccer games. The Chiefs may also find a use for it moving forward.

As for the seats, they will be replaced in time for the 2024 Chiefs season, but more seats — a couple thousand in the first 10 rows on the north sideline, the visiting team sideline for NFL games — will be removed after next football season.

Those seats will be replaced before the 2025 season with soccer-specific renovations set to be completed in the spring of 2026 before the World Cup.

“Then, there's a lot of pitch work that's occurring below that, so the modifications are really tied to widening the pitch, getting to FIFA’s standard in terms of the performance they're trying to normalize across many different regions in three free countries in one continent,” Kenny said.

With the renovations, the soccer field — or pitch, as it’s known around the globe — at Arrowhead will be about five meters wider and five longer than the dimensions for the Sporting KC-Inter Miami game.

A notable fan of wide and long soccer pitches, Sporting KC Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes applauded the setup used last weekend.

“Most teams want to play with width and most teams want to try to play with all the depth that they can, but I don't think it had a huge effect on the game (last weekend),” Vermes said. “It'll be good for when the World Cup is set up. It'll be a 75-(meter) by 120(-meter field). It will be perfect.”

Kenny said the game presented the Chiefs with a chance to show off Arrowhead in a new way to a new group of fans.

“We had 88% of the ticket holders for the Sporting match hadn't been to Arrowhead in the last four years,” he said. “When you think about new people and new folks using the facility and using the venue, that's really exciting.”

The next big soccer match at Arrowhead — a Copa America 2024 contest between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Uruguay on July 1 — promises a crowd with even more national and international exposure.

Officials with CONMEBOL, who run the Copa America tournament, visited Kansas City last weekend for the game.

“They had folks here for the Sporting match to see how we operate,” Kenny said. “We've been working with FIFA as well, who has keenly followed these matches as sort of tests and preps for what's coming in 2026.”

Arrowhead passed its first test with flying colors, a fact that surely would have immensely pleased late Chiefs Founder Lamar Hunt — one of the original investors and team owners in MLS and a renowned World Cup fan.

“Clark has mentioned a number of times his family's history of World Cup and just soccer,” Kenny said. “The MLS is really alive because of the Hunt family and a handful of others, so seeing this scale, this stage for an MLS match and then what that represents for the World Cup coming — I hadn't had the luxury of meeting Lamar, but based on all the conversations with Clark and his siblings, this is on his list of things that he wanted for this venue and really the one of the reasons why he built it this way. It's a lot of fulfilling opportunities ahead for the family.”