KU working through parking and transportation logistics for Kansas City games

photo by: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Fans tailgate in the parking lot outside Arrowhead Stadium before the start of an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo.

Playing University of Kansas football games out of town at Children’s Mercy Park and Arrowhead Stadium naturally creates new logistical burdens for Lawrence residents, including for KU students. KU is working on ways to facilitate transportation to those games, its deputy athletic director Jason Booker told the Journal-World in an interview Wednesday evening.

“We’re working closely with our student government leadership here, and Turner Seals, the student body president, and making sure we’re looking at all options for busing” to the games, Booker said, noting the possibility of “discounted to free” parking and transportation options for students.

Athletic director Travis Goff echoed this message in a post on X Wednesday night, responding to a student’s question about transportation to the games by writing that the school is assembling “a comprehensive plan that will include running as many buses as possible.”

As for parking prices more generally, Booker did not say how much parking would cost at either Kansas City venue, stating that “we’re still working through that and details haven’t been finalized.”

Under normal circumstances, Children’s Mercy Park offers some parking from $25 for Sporting Kansas City games; however, it provides free parking at specific lots to season-ticket holders, and KU has already said it doesn’t plan to sell single-game tickets for its two games there (Aug. 29 against Lindenwood and Sept. 14 against UNLV). Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs, charges $50 for a single-game parking pass, though fans pay just $20 at minimum to park for Royals games at adjacent Kauffman Stadium.

The KU athletic department is also looking to establish a game-day atmosphere when it plays in Kansas City this fall. It already noted in its announcement that Arrowhead will allow for more students than David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and that it will allocate 3,500 tickets for students at Children’s Mercy Park, “right on par with the student capacity ratio” of its usual venue.

Booker said that KU is looking at options such as onsite live music to help create “that Hill sort of feeling” at the games taking place away from home.

Some of the busing and ticketing options, he said, may be coordinated directly with and depart from local businesses in Lawrence, who stand to be affected by the relocation of games out of town.

For those who aren’t able to attend games, whether at home (as it were) or on the road, KU also plans to host watch parties in Lawrence.

Booker, whose official title is deputy athletic director for external affairs and revenue generation, serves on the board of directors of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s really important that we’re listening to our community here in Lawrence, and that’s why it’s important for us to have representation in those boards,” he said.

He also stressed that the construction on David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and the Gateway District, while creating obstacles in 2024, will bring more events into the area in the future. The project includes a conference center and potential future arts and entertainment options.

“I think everybody’s making some sacrifices along the way this year,” he said.

Choosing Children’s Mercy Park

The selection of Sporting KC’s soccer stadium as a venue for two games followed previous comments by Chancellor Douglas Girod in December that it was an unlikely option because past football games there have disrupted the soccer turf.

Booker said that in pushing past that issue, KU relied on its partnership with Cliff and Michael Illig, from the family that has long served as principal owner of Sporting KC, “working closely with them and kind of understanding our challenges.”

Even as the soccer team had its own operational considerations, “ultimately we were able to work together and find a path forward to make it work.”

“They’re making sacrifices too,” Booker said of the Chiefs and Sporting KC, noting that the soccer team has a home game on Sept. 18 just four days after KU plays UNLV.

As for why KU didn’t choose to play all six home games at Arrowhead, Booker said that working with the venue required considering not just Chiefs scheduling but Royals games at Kauffman Stadium as well as concerts.

The Royals create no apparent conflicts this year; they are in Houston for a weekend series at the end of August and in Pittsburgh in mid-September, and their schedule has been out since last July. However, the NFL doesn’t release its regular-season schedule until May and its preseason schedule typically until June, so it’s hard to say the extent of any overlap with the Chiefs, and Arrowhead doesn’t have any online concerts listed yet past Aug. 2.

Booker said discussions revolved around “how many dates that we were able to accommodate at Arrowhead that really made sense for them and for us” and that KU ultimately decided on “maximizing attendance opportunities for Big 12 games.”

It will host TCU there on Sept. 28, Houston on Oct. 19, Iowa State on Nov. 9 and Colorado on Nov. 23.

Exactly how much KU Athletics will pay for use of Children’s Mercy Park and Arrowhead Stadium has not yet been determined, Booker said, but he added that even without those items cemented, KU was certainly far enough along to make its announcement Tuesday.

“We’re still working through, again, all the details on revenue share and how that all kind of comes together and working with both of those groups and teams,” he said.


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