The bitter cold that came after a winter storm this weekend did not dampen the spirit of Chiefs fans who flooded into the parking lots of Arrowhead Stadium Sunday ahead of this evening’s game.
Hours before the Kansas City Chiefs take on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, thousands of fans were tailgating in the Truman Sports Complex.
Many fans had waited in line early in the morning, before the parking lot gates opened at 12:30 p.m., even as the temperature at Kansas City International Airport dipped to 7 degrees with wind chills of -2 degrees.
The good news for Chiefs fans is that afternoon highs on Sunday climbed into the low 20s. But that’s still 10 to 15 degrees below normal, according to the weather service.
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At the scheduled 5:40 p.m. kickoff of the game, temperatures are expected to be 22 degrees with a wind chill around 14 degrees. Throughout the game, temperatures will fall slightly into the upper teens. Wind chills, however, will drop into the single digits.
But the smiles on the faces of fans were bright.
Fans, all week, have been pumped for the showdown between the Chiefs’ charismatic young quarterback, Patrick Mahomes and the Patriots’ Tom Brady, who has led his team to five Superbowl wins.
Adding to the enthusiasm is that Kansas City is seeking its first Super Bowl appearance in 49 years.
“Been waiting a long time,” said David Tinoco, 59.
“Too long,” said Mike Hernandez, 64.
The two friends have been faithful ticket holders at Arrowhead for more than 30 years. They remember hard times but never considered letting it go.
The fellowship of “family” has always been strong out here among the tailgating fans, they said.
Greg Bowman and Jason Carter came from Conway Ark together with differences of opinion when it comes to who they would be rooting for on Sunday.
Bowman has been a Chiefs fan since the early 1990s. Carter is a Tom Brady fan who said he loves Brady’s story: Late-round draft pick, “Nobody thought he’d be any good and now he’s the greatest,” Carter said.
But it seemed Chiefs fans were the ones wearing the dominant colors outside Arrowhead, Sunday afternoon.
A fan going by the name “Buddha,” and wearing a black and white one-piece overall and wild red wig, welcomed fans entering parking Gate 3 with cheers.
Throughout the parking lots fans were bundled up and draped in Chiefs’ red from head to toe.
Among them were Maribel Solis of Kansas City and Sergio Perez of Kansas City, Kan., who both wore bright red sombreros and serapes emblazoned with Chiefs logos, marrying their Mexican heritage with their deep love for the team.
Today is “like Christmas!” Solis said. “Like July Fourth and Christmas put together,” Perez chimed in. “It’s electrifying “
Brian Lisenbee of Maywood, Mo., had some Chiefs-themed headgear of his own, donning a puffy red hat that could have come out of a Dr. Suess book to show his spirit.
“If I had time,” he said “I was going to put ‘Chiefs Thing 1” on my shirt,” he said.
The freezing temperature wasn’t a problem for Lisenbee, who was tailgating with the Martins family of Taylor, Mo.
The Taylors were in Kansas City for last week’s snow and slush. Today’s weather, they said, was much better.