This season represents the 60th year for the Chiefs in Kansas City. Over this season, we'll highlight some of the history of the franchise since Lamar Hunt officially announced on February 8, 1963, that his team was coming to town. This is Part Three of the series.
As much as Chiefs players and, indeed, the fans came to love the intimacy of old Municipal Stadium, Lamar Hunt understood the need for more modern stadiums to showcase professional football.
"Within two to three years," he predicted, as early as the mid-1960s, "the completion and expansion of league stadiums will place the AFL in a position never employed by any league in professional sports history." Soon, he and local officials began plans for a new stadium, especially since season ticket sales had continued to climb to 42,040, up from 36,616 in 1968. Just four years earlier, sales had been a dismal 9,559.
The Chiefs' victory in Super Bowl IV was the culmination of all Hunt could have hoped for when he sought out to found a new team in a new league. To have a new stadium would be a proper showplace for the city's championship team.
As the '60s turned into the '70s and the merger between the AFL and NFL became a reality, the struggles appeared over for the Chiefs. Kansas City could be proud of its status as one of one of professional football's finest organizations with passionate fans that equaled any found at longer-running NFL franchises.
But even as memories of the victory in Super Bowl IV were still fresh in everyone's mind, age was catching up to the players that Kansas City had fallen in love with.
The advantages the Chiefs had for many years included the owner's financial resources and the fact that his team was drafting against only those teams in the AFL.
The loss of personnel guru Don Klosterman years before turned out to be more of a blow, too, since he was responsible for many of the marquee players who had helped the team achieve its AFL dominance. Finding the right players was turning out to be far more difficult than it had used to be, and the NFL had finally awakened and sought out more players from the historically black colleges in the South that Klosterman and super scout Lloyd Wells had discovered and signed.
Once the leagues merged, it was to become significantly difficult to stockpile so much talent of the quality the team had gathered in the early days of the AFL. No longer would the Chiefs — or any AFL team, for that matter — be able to grab the likes of a Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Dave Hill, Ed Budde and Jerrel Wilson in one year's class of picks. Suddenly, there were 26 teams vying for the same pool of players and money had nothing to do with it.
The city's new football stadium was a marvel, one of the truly unique football stadiums in the land when it opened in 1972. Sadly, Lamar Hunt never realized the dream of what he called "a rolling roof" to address the issue of inclement weather. He had originally extended the concept to include a large observation tower overlooking both the football and baseball stadiums. He was an unabashed "fan of observation towers," he said, having been to the Eiffel Tower "five or six times" since his college days.
Arrowhead was not a testament to some architect's cleverness. Hunt had very specific ideas and outfitted his ushers in distinctive clothing, built coaching offices overlooking the field and locker rooms and weight rooms that were ahead of their time, and opened a fully functioning restaurant.
Two years removed from its Super Bowl appearance, the future still looked bright. More than 72,000 season ticket holders seemed to agree.
Later: Former glories are difficult to repeat