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What We Learned From Chiefs President Mark Donovan on Monday

Posted Jan 9, 2017

Chiefs President Mark Donovan met with the media on Monday afternoon

OPENING STATEMENT: “Welcome to Divisional Playoff Week. First of all, I’d like to share just how excited we are as an organization to be here. We have the opportunity to host a playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium and celebrate everything that is so special about Arrowhead and really celebrate our fans. Let me hit on a couple points which I think are questions you might have and then I’ll open it up to any additional questions.

“First of all, we sent out a note last week. We’re going to open our parking lots a little early and hopefully get some people in quicker and the crowd in earlier. So 6:30 a.m. is when the parking lots will open. For that first hour from 6:30-7:30 a.m., we’ll have open parking as we did for the Raiders game that Thursday night. At 7:30 a.m., we’ll direct traffic as we have all season long. The (stadium) gates will open 30 minutes earlier than normal. That means all gates will open at 10 a.m. Our Scout Investments Club Level gates and Draft Room will open at 9 a.m.

“One thing that happens with big games like this, unfortunately, is that it brings out demand which creates other issues. One thing I want all of our fans to be aware of is counterfeit tickets. It’s a big issue out there. It’s been a big issue across the league as you get into the Divisional round. Just know that if you’ve purchased your ticket through Chiefs.com or Ticketmaster, it’s a legitimate ticket. If you haven’t, you should check that ticket. I’d urge you to call our number: 888-99-CHIEFS and we can help you as much as we can to determine if that ticket you may have bought from a secondary or third source is a legitimate ticket. Do that before Sunday so we can get any issues straightened out.

“There’s another issue out there just to be aware of that we’ve encountered a little bit already this season. People trying to convince our fans to pay them cash for parking in advance of the tollbooth and they’re not representatives of the Chiefs. They are out there. Be aware of that if you are planning to pay in cash – which I strongly encourage you not to do. Get your parking pass in advance by going to Chiefs.com. If you are (paying cash on gameday), you will not be asked for cash until you get to the tollbooth. If somebody asks you for cash before you get to the tollbooth, they are not a Chiefs representative. Do not pay them cash. Wait until you get to the tollbooth.

“One other thing I should bring you up to speed on is that we are re-sodding the inside of the field – just outside of the numbers. That’s something we’ve decided to do. It’s something that’s in our plans every year as we get to this time of the year. Our guys are doing that today. They’ve been working on it the last couple of days and it will be ready to go. The addition of the heated field has really helped us keep a great grass surface. We felt like we could have gotten through it without re-sodding, but we wanted to make sure we put the best possible surface out there for this playoff game. With that, I will open up for your questions.”   

Q: What concerns come with re-sodding the field this time of year with the weather conditions the way they’ve been in Kansas City?

DONOVAN: “We do look at the weather forecast and we determine that whole schedule based on that. As you know based on the milder temperatures coming in, felt like we could do it this weekend, get it in place and we’ll be ready to go. The good news is enough stadiums do this on a regular basis and can predict exactly what is going to happen. It’s always something that our grounds crew is a little nervous on just because you want to see everything come off the truck the right way, you want it to go down the right way, but there’s enough lead time between now and then to get everything situated.”

Q: About how many tickets do you have left?

DONOVAN: “I should have mentioned this at the beginning and most of you know this but playoff games are league-controlled game. The way it works is the league gives you a number that you have to hit and beyond that you sell tickets. We hit that number late last week, so technically we’re sold out. There are tickets out there, we hold a bunch of tickets for league requests, networks, etc. and then they may go into the marketplace. There are singles, there are club seats out there, but we’re basically sold out.”

Q: I saw a lot of ads during the games this weekend for tickets, did you guys do strong business this weekend?

DONOVAN: “Actually if you look at the timing of it, when we clinched the home game in San Diego, that Monday and Tuesday were two of the biggest single-game sales days on record for the Chiefs organization. The other thing that I should tell you is the way we do season tickets and playoff tickets now with the preordering and reserving with our Season Ticket Members, by the middle of December about 90% of our Season Ticket Members had already reserved their playoff tickets, so that just reduces your pool. The ads you saw this week are getting people excited for the weekend coming up and just being part of this great event.”

Q: Whatever is out there as far as tickets you’re convinced will be gone by Sunday?

DONOVAN: “Oh yeah, we’re basically there now. With the secondary market there are a bunch of tickets that are in the marketplace. You can see those values are going up. Like I said there are singles, there are club, there are things like that but for the most part we’re basically sold out.”

Q: Are you expecting a lot of Pittsburgh fans?

DONOVAN: “Yeah, they’re a great franchise, they travel well, its playoff football. So just like our fans showed up in San Diego, I’m sure they’re going to show up here. The secondary market creates that market for them so there will be fans in the stands.”

Q: On ticket price fluctuation that fans see in the marketplace?

DONOVAN: “There are a bunch of variables in secondary markets. One of the really cool things about the market is you can track it now. You can look at the data over the past couple years, you can look at various markets and everything is a little different. One of the things that counts for that swing is these are individual sellers and buyers so that seller may have a big number on it just to see if he or she can get it and that may swing the next day when they realize it’s not out there. It’s a viable, liquid, moving market and it’s out there.”

Q: You meet with Clark Hunt regularly. In your discussions with him overly the last month, have you gotten a sense of whether John Dorsey will be back?

DONOVAN: “Well I think Clark [Hunt] said not too long ago, and I agree with him, that we’re real excited about the job that both Andy [Reid] and John [Dorsey] have done. As you know we don’t talk about contracts and I’m not going to be the one that talks about it.”

Q: In talking to John has he communicated a desire to stay at all?

DONOVAN: “I will tell you this, Andy [Reid] and John [Dorsey] are focused on this ballgame.”

Q: One more thing on the field, is there a way to test its readiness?

DONOVAN: “It’ll go down today. It will be fully tested tomorrow and the next day. We have a bunch of tests that we run on it, we have actual tests that the league runs on it. We’ll do that prior to this weekend so we’ll know exactly where we are. I have no concerns about the field.”

Q: From a business perspective, what is the impact of hosting a playoff game?

DONOVAN: “The biggest thing it does is it extends the season, so it extends the value for all of our partners. The other thing it does is it raises awareness. That creates more value in being associated with us. It does create opportunity as well. We’ve gotten great support from The University of Kansas Hospital, from Sprint, Hy-Vee, McDonald’s, all of our partners that have been with us the entire run and I got to speak with them prior to the holidays and I said, ‘Just enjoy this run, have fun with it.’ They’re a part of our family, they’re a part of our team. The other thing it does is it creates opportunities to capitalize on this timeframe. We just did a deal the other day with Dick’s Sporting Goods to be the presenting sponsor of our playoff run and that’s something you only get if you’re in it. It’s trying to take advantage of those opportunities and it’s trying to reward your partners.”

Q: Are you concerned about any incidents in the stands with the earlier gate opening?

DONOVAN: “I think the best thing I can tell you there is there are passionate fans out there. Steelers fans are passionate, Chiefs fans are passionate, we try to create the best environment at Arrowhead and our fans do a good job of that. As I said at the time, one of the most important things we try to do is provide a safe environment with our staffing levels and the way that we proactively try to deal with these situations, we’ve been able to get ahead of them. One of the things we really focus on is being proactive and making sure that people know that they can text us if there’s an issue, we see issues before they start and try to diffuse them before they happen. Playoff football creates passion. There’s going to be passion in the stands. It’s something we’re famous for, just how loud our fans are, we love that, we need that, our coaches and players thrive off of that. We want to support a very happy, very friendly, very safe environment but there’s going to be passion out there.”

Q: What is your impression of Chris Ballard?

DONOVAN: “I think Chris [Ballard] is a good example of a guy who is a team player. You look at our entire organization, you look at everybody across the board – football ops, coaching, players, I’d like to say business staff as well, we’re all in this together and Chris is one of those guys.”

Q: Everybody likes to talk about the mystique of Arrowhead but do you have to win a game like this to solidify that or restore it?

DONOVAN: “I don’t know if you have to solidify or restore the iconic nature of Arrowhead. I’ve said that many times. I had the good fortune of working at the National Football League, I’ve worked for all of the teams at the league (office), I’ve also had the good fortune of traveling to every single NFL market and being in all of the stadiums that exist and there’s something special about Arrowhead and playoffs will elevate and amplify that and we’re excited to take advantage of that. You’ve talked to the players, you’ve heard from them, they’re excited to play this game in front of our fans. They’re excited about the advantage that Arrowhead brings to our football team. Noise is a factor and our fans are good at being loud.”

Q: The 2010 season was the last time you hosted a home playoff game, what do you remember about that experience and the problems that may have presented themselves?

DONOVAN? “I think you learn from all of your experience, good and bad. Obviously, I remember losing that game. I remember a good Ravens football team but we also learned from that and we’ll look at all of that as we go through the preparations. You’ve dealt with us long enough on the business side to know that we’ve been planning for this for quite some time. This weekend was a great opportunity for us to sort of recharge, watch some great football and get ready again. Meeting with some of the staff this morning, they’re ready to go. All of our plans are in place, we’re good to go, we’ve got everything so all the boxes are checked and we’re just looking forward to Sunday.”

Q: On parking complications and if there is a way to change fans’ opinions?

DONOVAN: “I would tell you that if you look at our parking experience and the feedback that we’ve received from our fans throughout the year, we’ve gotten better every week. When you look at the feedback and the comments, they become less and less or (are) positive. As I said in the beginning, you learn every game, we’ll learn something this weekend, but what we’ve learned over this season is to just that, simplify it. If you remember when I stood up here at the beginning of the year one of the things that I focused on was that we’re going to simplify this process and I think we have. If you look at that Thursday night game when we opened the gates early or you look at that Christmas game, we had really good weekends where it’s one of the more inspiring moments when I get that text from a CEO in Kansas City saying ‘nice job’ when they’re talking about parking and traffic and I received a lot of them. Now I also receive a lot of texts and emails every single game from people saying I don’t believe this happened. When you’re dealing with 76,000 people, when you’re dealing with a timeframe of a few hours, you’re going to have issues, something is going to go wrong and you’d be surprised at the things that can go wrong. We had an 18-wheeler pull down Raytown Road prior to the Thursday night and just decided that the only way get onto (Interstate) 435 was to enter Gate 5. Think about that. That becomes an email to me from a guy on Coal Mine Road saying, ‘Why is there traffic at Gate 5 this game?’ This guy just did something that was not really intelligent and we had to reroute everything for a good half hour or 45 minutes to deal with that problem. When I look at parking, when I look at traffic, it’s trying to simplify it, it’s trying to get the majority of the people a very positive experience and I’m proud of our team because we’ve done that.”

Q: If there is eventually an AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium, how are ticket sales going for that?

DONOVAN: “We’ll be in great shape – no worries.”

Q: With regards to parking, what’s the motivation for parking at the gate?

DONOVAN: “I’ll go back to what I said at the very beginning of the season. First of all, let’s talk about parking prices. If a Season Ticket Member bought season-long parking, the price stayed flat for the playoffs – that’s $30 dollars. Season Ticket Members all season long paid the same as they did. If you’re buying parking in advance online, we raised it to $35. Pretty traditional across the industry and pretty traditional across Kansas City sports. What we did with cash parking is we raised it from $40 to $60. I’ll repeat exactly what I said in September – I don’t want anybody to pay $60 to park here. I want them to buy it in advance. The reality is, we’re creating the incentive so people can get through the gates quicker so we can process them and that impacts the majority of the fans. That person who comes up and tries to pay cash for parking creates a delay, and that delay impacts the person waiting behind them. If we can eliminate that through passes we’re going to incentivize our fans to do that.”

Q: Did you learn anything from the Royals playoff run that maybe you can use toward the Chiefs playoff run?

DONOVAN: “I wouldn’t say a lot from an operational standpoint because they’re so different when you think about the timing, etc. They have a great tradition over there with more and more tailgating but I think our tailgating is at a different level. There’s a lot of differences and it’s tough to learn a lot from that. We do talk to them about what they do with technology, what they do with ticketing and what they do with security and safety measures. We try to learn as much as we can from that. Each year we sit down with each of their departments and discuss what they learned and what we can use from that.”

Q: Are there any new and interesting sponsor events prior to this game? 

DONOVAN: “Yeah I think what you’ve seen around town and what you’ll continue to see is the community coming together. I see some of the buildings are already lit up and some of the Arrowheads are painted. Our focus is, as I said, to provide a great experience and to win this game. We want our fans to be loud and want them to get here early.”

Q: Were your regular season ticket sales about where they were the last few years?

DONOVAN: “When you look at the season, it’s a little different than last year. In the way the season and schedule rolled out, the premium and prime games were on the back-half this year versus front half last year. It’s a very different year in terms of how tickets tracked. One of the biggest benefits we have is that we have a huge season-ticket base. We had a few over 60,000 season tickets and that’s an anomaly in the National Football League. I think the average is around 45,000. That sort of levels everything out. The questions is, ‘What can you learn?’ We learned a lot this year about when your primetime games are in that time of the year. We talked a lot over the years about November and December games being a lot different than September and October. We’ve learned a little bit about that. If you look at all the things we look at as indicators – for example you’ve heard a lot about the ratings this year in the National Football League – our ratings are down less than a point, I think it’s down 0.6% as of today. We were in the top-10 in ratings in the National Football League in each of the last 10 weeks of the season. Our numbers are tracking the way they have and they’re very strong compared to the rest of the teams in the National Football League. We’re very appreciative of that.”        

Q: The ‘sale’ part of it, is it a little better or worse than what you expected?

DONOVAN: “In terms of ticket sales? It’s about what I expected – maybe a little better.”

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