KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An impending ice storm expected to create serious travel problems Sunday morning prompted the NFL to move the scheduled start for the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers divisional playoff game to 7:20 central time.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan said safety everyone attending Sunday’s game remained paramount in the decision.
“The first conversation I had with the league officials, it was let’s focus on public safety,” Donovan said. “Let’s make sure we provide the best conditions for all of the fans.”
Donovan said the league and the team consulted with state and local partners, including Kansas City Mayor Sly James.
City manager Troy Schulte said in a statement the city is adjusting its game plan, but has contingency procedures for public safety, traffic and other logistics related to events at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Based on the current forecast, this change will keep our residents and employees safer as they attend the game or work during the game, which is now scheduled to kickoff at 7:20 p.m.,” Schulte said in the statement.
Donovan said he briefed coach Andy Reid beginning Wednesday on the possibility the kickoff could be moved based on the storm forecast. Reid informed his team after Friday’s practice about the time change.
“We got to the decision point from the league, had a communication with coach right after practice and he communicated it out to the team,” Donovan said.
Parking lots for the game now open at 2 p.m. Open parking remains available for the first hour until 3 p.m. Entrances to the stadium’s club suites and The Draft Room sports bar open at 4 p.m. Stadium gates open at 5 p.m.
Donovan explained the team selected those based times on weather forecasts to provide the safest travel opportunities for everyone.
“Based on the latest information we were provided, that gives us the best chance to get people here in a safe way,” Donovan said. “And then on the way out, based on the forecasts today, it’s actually going to be warmer at the end of the game, so we expect the roads to be even safer.”
The Chiefs in conjunction with the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority and outside vendors already started pretreating the stadium and parking lots for icy conditions. That includes treating the stands, stairways and concourses.
“We’re prepping the entire complex, the entrance ways, the parking lots and we’re preparing the stadium inside the stadium,” Donovan said.
The league issued a statement indicating the decision to move the game was made in conjunction with the state and local officials as well as both teams.
Donovan said the league made the final decision, but the Chiefs came to the same conclusion regarding the need to move the game.
“We didn’t have to make a recommendation,” Donovan said. “We sort came to the conclusion together. They asked us for the information, we provided the information, they told us this is where we’re going.”
The NFL statement emphasized the need to provide authority times to clear roadways to ensure safer travel to the game.
“Moving the game from the original 1:05 p.m. ET start time will provide local authorities more time to clear roads in the area as the weather is expected to improve throughout Sunday,” according to the statement.
The original kickoff schedule at 12:05 p.m. posed serious logistic concerns for fans planning to attend Sunday’s game. The National Weather Service issues an ice storm warning beginning 6 p.m. Friday evening and extending to midnight Sunday evening. But the forecast calls for rising temperatures Sunday afternoon, shifting ice to primarily all rain.
As of Friday afternoon, the National Weather Forecast called for approximately a quarter inch of ice between midnight and noon on Sunday before switching to all rain.
Donovan reiterated the team does not plan to offer refunds for tickets due to the time change, but recommended any fans who cannot attend the game at the new time to contact the team’s ticket office by phone at (888) 992-4433.