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Arrowhead renovation a work in progress

August 16, 2009

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— Decorative tarps shroud debris and construction equipment behind barricades. Steel girders and sheet metal obstruct the familiar bowl shape. Inside, overspray from the wall paint covers concrete floors, ductwork and pipes snake uncovered across the ceiling.

Arrowhead Stadium opened in time for the Kansas City Chiefs’ preseason opener against the Houston Texans on Saturday night. It’s far from a finished product.

Halfway through a $375 million renovation project, Arrowhead Stadium is still rough around the edges, a remodel that leaves the homeowners no choice but to live among the mess.

“It’s a little dirty and dusty, and you can tell everything’s not quite finished,” said fan Dustin Williams, wearing a No. 27 Larry Johnson jersey. “But you can kind of see what everything is going to look like. It’s going to be nice when they finally finish it.”

Renovation of the 38-year-old stadium started before the 2007 season. More than 5,000 people have worked on the project, including up to 900 a day over the offseason to keep it on schedule, ready in time for this season.

What they’ve done so far is impressive.

The exterior is wrapped in glass and silver, a futuristic shell covering the white concrete of the original stadium. Massive football-shaped, high-definition video boards hover atop the stands in the end zones. The facade at the bottom of the second level is now a flashy ribbon video board, with Ring of Honor inductees like Len Dawson and Derrick Thomas now immortalized digitally instead of in paint. A speaker the size of a small house blares bone-shaking music and sound effects from the top of the east end.

The concourses, once crowded and dotted with pillars, have been redone, stretching nearly two-Hummers wide. There are more places to eat and drink, including Kansas City-famous Gates Barbecue, more restrooms — 96 percent more for the women — more suites, flat-screen TVs on the walls, even party decks for the more-interested-in-the-beer crowd.

“Even though we’re a work in progress, there’s going to be a certain wow factor with what’s been completed to date,” Chiefs president Denny Thum said. “I think the fans will be amazed with the renovations.”

Well, if they can see past all the dust and dirt.

The outside of Arrowhead looks, in places, like a scene from “Road Warrior,” piles of twisted rebar, broken pallets and shards of metal visible behind the tarps and barricades. There are lowered cranes parked next to dumpsters and port-a-lets, next to stacks of sheet rock and sheet metal.

The concourses, while wider, haven’t been finished, the delineation between the current and previous work evident in faded 1972 concrete and the brightness of the newly poured stuff. Inside the club level, the once-carpeted floor is uncovered concrete with splashes of paint, and the walls are unfinished, still the pale off-white color of drywall. Scaffolding rises to a ceiling filled with pipes and ducts at the south entrance.

The new press box, perched above the last row of the south end, is a shell, and the new Hall of Fame has nothing in it yet.

Clearly, there’s plenty of work left.

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