Archive for Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Move to Arrowhead should pay off

Border War’s shift to neutral site bottom-line decision for Kansas, Mizzou

January 23, 2007

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— Kansas University athletic director Lew Perkins never has been shy about trying new things. He admitted as much Monday, though the actions at Arrowhead Stadium reverberated louder than any of his words possibly could.

In conjunction with Missouri University and the Kansas City Chiefs, KU announced Monday that the annual Border War football game will move to Arrowhead Stadium in 2007 and 2008.

It's huge news for both schools, which for more than 60 years had alternated the rivalry game between Lawrence and Columbia, Mo. Though Kansas still will be considered the home team in '07 and Missouri in '08 as originally scheduled, all parties involved now know - and embrace - the fact the atmosphere hardly will resemble a true home game on campus.

"There's going to be more people from Missouri at our home game and more people from Kansas at their home game, because there's that many more seats," Perkins said. "When you think about it, it's really a plus."

Added Chiefs president Carl Peterson: "We'd like to see 50-50. Half of the stadium filled with MU and half filled with KU."

Both games are scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving - Nov. 24, 2007, and Nov. 29, 2008. When asked the chances of the move to Arrowhead becoming permanent, Peterson declined to speculate, saying, "We haven't discussed that at all. At this particular point, we're only looking at two years."

The turnout these next two years could dictate the future of the series. But no matter how many fans flock to Arrowhead, both KU and MU are guaranteed to have a nice payday associated with the games - one of the reasons both schools finally agreed to the move after years of one side hesitating.

The deal calls for both KU and MU to be guaranteed $1 million each year from the Chiefs, with the possibility for more if the game draws well. The Chiefs will profit as well, picking up the revenue of tickets, parking and concessions. Peterson said the schools could earn more money if ticket sales "get to a certain point."

KU-MU at Arrowhead

Fans on the street react to the news that the Kansas-Missouri football game will be held in Arrowhead Stadium this year. Enlarge video

"There's certainly going to be a crowd big enough to cover the guarantee," Peterson said with a grin. "If not, I'm sure (Chiefs chairman) Clark Hunt will be talking to me."

Perkins said $1 million is about what Kansas makes for a home game, and getting the sum twice in two years essentially doubles the profits. Visiting teams in the Big 12 Conference don't receive any revenue under normal circumstances.

Seated next to Perkins at Arrowhead on Monday was KU coach Mark Mangino, who insisted that leaving the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium this November wouldn't strip his team of any advantage.

"Kansas City is right next door to us," Mangino said. "It's familiar territory for us. Giving up the game in our stadium is not a big factor to me because we're playing right here at Arrowhead in Kansas City."

Still, the move is expected to draw criticism from both a financial standpoint among Lawrence merchants and a competitive standpoint for KU football.

Kansas fans were torn regarding the previous game at Arrowhead, a conference game with Oklahoma in 2005. Kansas lost that game, 19-3, yet went 6-0 at Memorial Stadium that season to barely qualify for a bowl.

KU officials were quick to point out Monday that Lawrence won't be without its fair share of games the next two seasons. Despite the move to Arrowhead, the Jayhawks will play seven games in Lawrence in both '07 and '08. The 2007 home schedule will include Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International, Iowa State, Baylor and Nebraska.

In addition, this year's Mizzou game will be included in KU's season-ticket package, though Missouri elected not to include the '08 game in its season-ticket plan.

Neutral sites aren't unheard of for rivalry games. The most well-known example is the Texas-Oklahoma game, which is played annually in Dallas. Unlike the KU-MU plan, the Cotton Bowl is split in half every year in terms of ticket allocations between Longhorn and Sooner fans.

Other neutral-site contests include Army-Navy in Philadelphia and Florida-Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Chiefs have strived to play host to this game since Peterson was hired in 1988. Despite failing to come up with a deal for nearly two decades, talks always continued in some capacity.

It finally came to fruition Monday.

"There were a lot of people who said it would never get done," Peterson said. "But I think perseverance is the right word here."

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