COLUMBIA — If the Border Showdown between Missouri and Kansas becomes a permanent part of Kansas City’s and Arrowhead Stadium’s identity, Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson will be pleased.
“This whole thing started with a dream of (former Chiefs owner) Lamar Hunt’s,” Peterson said. “It’s good for both schools. It’s a great economic impact for the Kansas City community. We’d like to sustain this, but ultimately, it’s their decision. We’re hopeful that this thing will continue.”
On Thursday, Missouri and Kansas decided to keep the game going for a while longer.
The schools signed a new four-year contract to hold the event in Kansas City, rather than alternate between Columbia and Lawrence, Kan., replacing the deal that was set to expire at the end of this year. The new deal will run through 2012 and continues the late Hunt’s dream of making the MU-KU game for Kansas City what the Texas-Oklahoma game is for Dallas.
“Without question this is a great positive for the Kansas City, Jackson County and Arrowhead Stadium," Peterson said in a release. “We believe the game held at Arrowhead benefits the universities, their students and student athletes, alumni and fans of both universities. Athletic directors Lew Perkins (of KU) and Mike Alden (of MU) have our thanks. Lamar would be very proud."
Earlier in the week, Jim Marchiony, assistant athletic director at Kansas, and Chad Moller, assistant athletic director at Missouri, said their schools were in talks to extend the series and were very interested in an agreement.
“I think things went well enough last year, and it’s been well enough received this year that all three entities are receptive to continue it there,” Moller said on Nov. 21 . “Both schools and the Kansas City Chiefs are interested in making it happen.”
The reasons both schools have an interest in keeping the game at Arrowhead include the financial guarantee for each year they play in Kansas City, the size of Arrowhead Stadium and the ties both institutions have to the City of Fountains. As part of the deal, Missouri and Kansas are each guaranteed a certain amount per year by the Chiefs. If the game were played at either school, the visiting school would receive no financial compensation.
“When you play a home game, you get all of the revenue,” Moller said. “When you play a road game in conference, you get zero. It’s a loss item on the ledger. It’s just an expense to travel the team there and stay in a hotel. It’s (playing at Arrowhead) a huge game for us. The guarantee that we get for two years far outweighs what we would receive just for the one home game in a two-year span.”
Marchiony said the schools are projected to receive $1.5 million to $2 million more than they would if they alternated between Lawrence and Columbia. He added that the capacity of Arrowhead Stadium, which easily holds more than either school’s stadium, was partially responsible. On the Chiefs’ side, the deal makes $19 million to $22 million for Kansas City, and the team shares its profits on concessions, tickets and parking with stadium landlord Jackson County, according to Peterson.
Just as important as money to both schools was the relationship each school has with Kansas City. Marchiony said that Kansas has about 70,000 alumni living in the Kansas City area, while Moller and Alden stressed Missouri’s desire to market itself throughout the state.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to continue this great rivalry game in Arrowhead Stadium,” Alden said. “Continuing this game in Kansas City helps increase the exposure to what we believe is one of the best rivalries in all of college athletics, and it furthers our mission of bringing the University of Missouri to the state and its supporters."
Neither school had many drawbacks to playing in Kansas City, but Moller and Marchiony each said that lost revenue for businesses in Columbia and Lawrence was one. The schools have a policy requiring six home games, and part of the reason is to minimize that loss. Otherwise, both schools were positive about their past experience and optimistic that concerns had been addressed to satisfaction.
“We were very satisfied,” Marchiony said. “There were things that needed to be addressed, and they were addressed. I think that this year, the fans’ experience and the teams’ experience will be better than last year.”
Marchiony said that Kansas’ biggest problem was congested traffic at Arrowhead Stadium, which was because of a lack of familiarity with the stadium from fans of both teams. He added that the difficulty of getting around the parking lot even delayed the teams from reaching their respective locker rooms.
Peterson acknowledged the problem from a year ago and said that it should be fixed for this year’s game. Even with the problems, Peterson said the tailgating environment was “outstanding."
“There was some concern that there might be some problems with KU and MU tailgaters in the same parking lot,” Peterson said. “On the contrary, it was one of the most congenial things I’ve seen. Literally, (fans were) right next to each other. They really reveled and enjoyed themselves.”
Moller, who voiced most of the same concerns as Marchiony, was confident that things would be improved. He said plans to open gates five hours before kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium is a positive.
“We won’t know until after the game if things make a difference,” he said. “But we feel good going in that the Chiefs have been responsive to the concerns that were addressed from last year.”
Kansas coach Mark Mangino declined to take a position on the future of the series until after the Jayhawks play the Tigers on Saturday. But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has said that he is in favor of keeping the series in Kansas City, under certain circumstances.
“I would say it’s healthy,” Pinkel said. “For us, we always have to maintain six home games, that’s very important to us. But for the foreseeable future, or at least the next few years, I’d be all for it from our standpoint.”
One possible hurdle from the Missouri standpoint could be the required six home games. The Tigers are entering the third year of a four-year contract to play Illinois in St. Louis. As long as that contract remains in place, Missouri would be unable to play a true nonconference road game in years in which it is the designated home team against Kansas.
But in 2010, the Tigers are slated to do that against SMU. The extension requires Missouri to either move the SMU game to another year or buy its way out of the game to get to six home games. Missouri has not revealed its plans yet, but Alden was adamant that six home games will remain the minimum number.
"We also move forward knowing that we will always protect having at least six home games each season for our Columbia community, and that will not change with this agreement,”Alden said.
In 2009, the Tigers and Jayhawks will no longer have Arrowhead Stadium to themselves. Kansas State and Iowa State will also move their series to Kansas City for two years. This year, the Wildcats and Cyclones played their game the week before the MU-KU game.
Peterson said part of Hunt’s dream for Kansas City was to host as many college football games as possible. He also said the guarantee to Kansas State and Iowa State will be smaller than what is paid to Missouri and Kansas. Because of the rivalry Missouri and Kansas have, Moller says the Border Showdown is a higher priority and a bigger game.
“No disrespect to Iowa State and Kansas State, but Missouri-Kansas is a pretty big rivalry,” he said. “It’s the second-most played rivalry in Division I football with 116 previous games. I think it’s got the chance to become pretty special, regardless of where it’s played. But there is something unique about it if it’s played in Kansas City, certainly.”