COMMENT: Weak crowd at new Arrowhead Stadium makes MU-KU game lackluster

Saturday, November 27, 2010 | 6:21 p.m. CST; updated 7:07 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 27, 2010

KANSAS CITY —  The prefix  "new" is attached to the renovated Arrowhead Stadium and for good reason.

Originally built in 1972, Arrowhead showed the wear and tear of 37 years. Missouri-Kansas games at Arrowhead have been competitive in the three years prior to Saturday's 35-7 Missouri win, but those games were not as competitive as fans jostling for space in Arrowhead's crowded, narrow concourses.

From the seats, new Arrowhead Stadium looks the same. But to get to the orange, yellow and red seats that swoop around a green field with poorly-covered Kansas City Chiefs logos, you go through an Arrowhead Stadium that is entirely different.

The new Arrowhead has concourses wide enough for a pre-game marching band show — but those wide concourses were unnecessary during Saturday's game.

Despite a new, state-of-the-art stadium and a beautiful, 50-degree, sun-filled day, Saturday's game had the lowest attendance in the four years the MU-KU football game has been played at the stadium.

Arrowhead Stadium maintained a seating capacity of 81,425 with its renovations. On Saturday the announced attendance for the MU-KU game was 55,788, 68 percent of the stadium's capacity. That number was an overstatement. An optimist would say that the Arrowhead stands were half full, but even those optimists  would say the crowd was weak. 

The renovated Arrowhead Stadium opened to a soccer match between Major League Soccer's Kansas City Wizards and a reserve squad from Manchester United. That game drew 52,424 people.

The stadium was divided down the middle for Saturday's game — the Missouri fans sat behind Gary Pinkel and the Tigers, the Kansas fans behind Turner Gill and the Jayhawks. The Missouri fans generally filled their half of the stadium, but the blue-clad Kansas fans used roughly a third of the seats on their side.

For those who did attend, the new Arrowhead provided plenty of places to find respite from a one-sided football game, and as the Tigers racked up the points on the Jayhawks, more and more lower-bowl orange seats emptied around the field.

Perhaps the thin crowd was in the new Arrowhead concourse. Adorned with 10-foot tall murals of Chiefs' greats, heat lamps, fire pits and more plasma TVs than an electronics store on Black Friday, the Arrowhead hallways were busting with activity during halftime and drawing rave reviews. The only complaint from fans was that Gates barbecue is no longer a vendor in the stadium.

The club levels of Arrowhead were designed to look like a Las Vegas hotel, with 25-foot tall ceilings, carpeted floors and a bar that closer resemble a sports book than a concession stand. 

The Kansas fans who did stay for the second half were mostly gone by the middle of the fourth quarter. Many Missouri fans left, too, in better moods. With Missouri leading 35-7, the mass exodus of blue left a question — did the Kansas band outnumber the remaining Jayhawks fans?

In the three previous years of Arrowhead hosting the MU-KU game, the average attendance totaled more than 76,000 people. And while the 2007 game between No.2 Kansas and No. 4 Missouri was certainly going to garner more attention and buzz than this year's match-up of the 9-2 Tigers and 3-8 Jayhawks, attendance will have to increase next season for the game's Kansas City contract, which expires in 2012, to be renewed without a second thought.

Kansas State and Iowa State's annual match-up at Arrowhead, nicknamed "Farmageddon" will not continue next season, in large part because of poor attendance. Farmageddon averaged around 40,000 people each year.

The game was Missouri's last of the regular season, and with a 10-2 record, it is in the conversation for an at-large bid to a BCS bowl. Saturday's game had another attendance problem: There was only one bowl representative evaluating the Tigers.

Saturday's lone representative was David H. Kniseley, an Orange Bowl committee member. Kniseley didn't say much about the Tigers, just another play in the political game that is bowl selections, but the strong Missouri crowd, contrasted by the weak Kansas contingent, made enough of an impression for Kniseley to comment. 

"It was an enthusiastic crowd, no doubt about it," Kniseley said outside Missouri's locker room postgame. "It's a concern with every bowl ... the enthusiasm of the crowd, how they finish in the BCS in the rankings, a lot of things are taken into account."

Missouri and Kansas fans seemed to be in friendly spirits around Arrowhead on Saturday, a nice contrast from years past, and that friendly spirit should continue — Kansas' poor attendance made Missouri's crowds, often its bowl game bugaboo, look good. 


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fred faurot November 29, 2010 | 12:02 p.m.

The MU/KU game should be returned to the home and home system.

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