Just like last year around this time — and for the three consecutive years before that — private planes will land early and often at Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport on Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs host the AFC championship game.
For last year’s conference championship, 395 private planes landed at the downtown airport that Sunday, said Joe McBride, a spokesman for the Kansas City Department of Aviation.
“This is in one day! Fifty-seven percent more business jets, turboprops, small planes, you name it, that arrived at that airport than weren’t normally scheduled to go,” she said.
It’s just one case that the Chiefs’ unprecedented five AFC Championship home games turned into an unprecedented profit margin for Kansas City businesses.
Sunday’s game will determine which AFC team advances to Super Bowl XLVII in Glendale, Arizona. The Chiefs will face the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that has beaten them in the last three games. Kickoff is set for 5:30 pm with coverage on CBS.
The game, McBride said, attracts people who have spent a lot of money to go to the game.
“From team owners to network executives to sponsors to people who might be executives at some company that has a private jet and can do it,” McBride said. “Also, just a bunch of people pooling their money and chartering a plane and flying out to see the big game.”
Most of them don’t stay after the game, but others who do, like visitors who fly in or drive to Kansas City, have a big economic impact.
Kathy Nelson of tourism industry group Visit KC outlined the impact of three previous AFC championships, excluding 2021 due to the pandemic aberration.
“From years past, there has been an economic increase in this city of about $13 million when it has hosted the AFC championship game,” he said.
Nelson uses what he calls an “economic impact calculator” to determine that number.
He compares it to another major sporting event in mid-March: the men’s and women’s Big 12 basketball tournaments.
“It’s typically between $15 million and $18 million, for both men and women, over the course of four days,” Nelson said.
The surrender of the playoffs
The Chiefs’ regular season success also carries over to unplanned postseason profits for restaurants and hotels.
Andrea O’Hara, executive director of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City, said the hotel’s occupancy rate this weekend is close to 80%.
“As an entrepreneur, yeah, that’s great,” said Grant Tower, who co-owns Taps on Main Street with his brothers, Jason and Mark. “I mean… five years… he’s crazy. We are lucky.”
The matchup between the Chiefs and Bengals this year and last has brought mixed emotions for the Tower brothers, whose hearts are with the Buffalo Bills.
“My father is from Tonawanda, New York—it’s a suburb of Buffalo,” Tower said. “He came here for college, he met my mom, he stayed and raised us as Bills fans.”
Had the Bills won last Sunday, the AFC Championship would have been held in Atlanta. It would have meant a missed opportunity for the brothers and other local entrepreneurs.
“Would we have been disappointed if the Chiefs had played in Atlanta? No, because they were going to play in the AFC championship game,” Nelson of Visit KC said. “You would have heard Kansas City mentioned on the broadcast anyway. That’s a marketing hike.
“Of course, the flow of those dollars into our community is important, but we would never think about it,” he said.
This guy named Patrick Mahomes
For those not making it to Kansas City this weekend, Sunday’s CBS telecast will no doubt feature the sights and sounds of the city, in and around Arrowhead Stadium and around the subway.
This is also a major attraction for later visitors, according to Nelson.
“Someone from Canada stopped me at Union Station the other day,” Nelson said. “He Said, ‘I keep hearing about Kansas City.'”
“He had no idea who I was… and he says, ‘Can you help me? I have to figure out where to eat. I keep hearing about this place.’”
Then there’s this guy named Patrick Mahomes, whose success on the field is attracting non-sporting followers from all over the world.
“I don’t even know how to quantify it,” Nelson said. “People I know from all over the country only know Mahomes.”
The Mahomes name certainly didn’t hurt as a marketing tool when Kansas City landed the 2023 NFL Draft, scheduled for late April. It’s the biggest sporting event the city has ever seen, some suggest.
And it’s just one of a number of major sporting events taking place in Kansas City this year.