The Kansas City Chiefs have been selected to host a regular-season game overseas for the first time in franchise history.
The Chiefs will take on the Detroit Lions in London on Nov. 1, 2015, at Wembley Stadium.
The news has outraged Chiefs fans and season ticket holders, who will only have to pay for nine games rather than 10. Some fans had said that giving up the game would put the Chiefs on track to secure a Super Bowl at Arrowhead Stadium, but Chiefs leaders put the kibosh on that notion Thursday afternoon.
Blue Springs resident Frank McCleary said the game will bring international exposure to the Chiefs, but he doesn't think that is enough to justify giving up a home game.
"They are going to be playing overseas, but I'm still not sure that outweighs what the fans here in Kansas City lose," he said. "We all know that Arrowhead is one of the great home advantages in the NFL, and it seems a shame to lose that for a little international exposure."
County officials put the best spin on the loss of tax dollars and income to vendors and businesses whose income depends on games at the Truman Sports Complex, which voters in 2006 agreed to overhaul.
"Now the world will see the best fans and best franchise in the NFL. What an exciting time to be a sports fan in Kansas City. Between the World Series run by the Royals and the upcoming Chiefs game in London, we are proud to showcase our Jackson County spirit on the international stage," Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said in a statement.
A spokeswoman said Sanders was unavailable for comment to KCTV5. A spokesman for City Manager Troy Schulte did not respond to a request for a comment and Mayor Sly James did not issue a statement.
Chiefs fan Willie Hunter said he thinks the long-term benefits to the Chiefs are worth giving up the home game.
The game will be televised live locally and nationally.
"It is an honor for Kansas City to represent the NFL on an international stage," Chiefs president Mark Donovan said in a brief statement. "We are excited for the opportunity this creates for our fans, our city and the global growth of the Chiefs brand."
He added that "our players, our fans and the whole region should benefit" from the Chiefs being on the international stage.
But after a fan outcry began building on radio stations and social media, Donovan met with reporters to answer questions. County officials were told about the announcement less than an hour before it was made public, but Donovan said Chiefs leaders had been talking with civic and state leaders about a London game for years.
"As a fan, you don't want to give up a game, period. We get that, we understand that," Donovan told reporters. "And if you look at the history of this franchise and specifically (founder) Lamar (Hunt) and what he did and the way he approached the National Football League and the importance of the greater good, this is another example of this family following that tact and that approach. The international series is a priority of the league."
The Chiefs have played outside the United States, but only for preseason games.
The matchup with the Lions will be one of three NFL games taking place in the United Kingdom next year. The Miami Dolphins will also host the New York Jets in a division matchup and the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Buffalo Bills. The 82,000-seat Wembley sells out for the NFL games.
In 2006, Jackson County voters approved a new 25-year lease with the Chiefs that included renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. In 2007, NFL teams began to play in London. Initially, it was just one game but it has since been expanded to three.
The county's lease with the Chiefs allows for the team to play a regular season home game "in a location outside the continental United States."
Kansas City had been promised this season's Super Bowl if voters approved a rolling roof, but that tax was rejected by voters in 2006.
With the NFL opening the door to cold-weather sites for the Super Bowl, Kansas City area officials in recent months have begun making a push for Arrowhead to host a Super Bowl.
In October, NFL owners voted to require teams wanting to host a Super Bowl to play a home game in London within five years of securing the bid to host the NFL championship game.
As one area official involved in the Super Bowl bid process said, "It is a good omen."
In an interview with 610 Sports Radio, Sanders was asked about the London game making it easier for Kansas City to get the Super Bowl.
"It is certainly something we could look at in the future," he said.
But Donovan brushed off such talk during his meeting with reporters.
"I think the Super Bowl decision is more cold-weather issue than anything else and the league is still going through that process after New York. So this isn't directly related," he said. "I think if Kansas City gets a Super Bowl, I think it's going to be more about that building (Arrowhead) and this environment than it is about us playing a game in London."
In exchange for giving up a game next year at Arrowhead, the Chiefs will receive $1 million and get their lost revenue reimbursed. However, Donovan said it will cost the Chiefs money to travel to England and the team's costs will be significant.
It wasn't immediately clear Thursday how much the loss of the game at Arrowhead will cost Kansas City and Jackson County in the way of sales tax and other dollars as well as businesses that profit from games at Arrowhead such as restaurants, motels and ticket scalpers.
But the fan response was decidedly one-sided. Carrington Harrison of 610 Sports Radio said fans are quite aware teams normally traveling to London have trouble selling out their stadiums.
"The average fan can't go to London, so now you've taken away their opportunity to go to the game to tailgate and have that experience," Harrison said.
Donovan said he understands the response and the team expected it. He said the team was adamant the Chiefs wouldn't give up a game against an AFC team.
"This is a long-term prospect and this is a long-term benefit for the league, but selfishly it's a long-term benefit for the Kansas City Chiefs. Our brand, our region, the opportunity to be on this stage is valuable," Donovan said.
The NFL is not requiring every team to give up a home game to play in London or another overseas location. Donovan said the Hunt family wanted to "lead by example," and growing internationally is crucial to the NFL's future.Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.?