KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the Kansas City Chiefs were informed by NFL officials that they would be playing in Mexico City and wouldn’t have to give up a home game to do it, team chairman Clark Hunt and president Mark Donovan cheered enthusiastically.
The game on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams would have been a chance for the Chiefs to grow what they fondly refer to as the Chiefs Kingdom. That was before the game was moved Tuesday to Los Angeles because of concerns over the condition of the playing field at Estadio Azteca.
But the Chiefs may be looking for the next opportunity to play in Mexico.
“There are 21 million NFL fans in Mexico,” Donovan said. “There are 7 million avid [fans]. There are 3.1 million kids playing flag football in Mexico. … Those are all potential fans of the Kansas City Chiefs. We look at these opportunities as, ‘Let’s go there, let’s play really well, let’s put on a great show, let’s create a reason for somebody to become a Chiefs fan.’
“You want to be the brand that’s there. You want to be the team that’s there. They are more likely to follow you if they can consume you.”
The NFL was going to be playing a regular-season game in Mexico City for the third consecutive season. But this would have been the first involving a team from a Midwestern market and one without a large Latino community.
The Kansas City metro area’s population is about 8.5 percent Hispanic, or about 176,000 people, according to StatisticalAtlas.com. Kansas City has the 44th-largest Latino community in the United States, according to Pew Research Center data. Kansas City is the 30th-largest metropolitan area in the country with about 2.1 million people, according to Statista.com.
One of the ways the Chiefs have marketed themselves to the Spanish-speaking community is through Spanish-language radio broadcasts of their games. Not every NFL team has its games on the radio in Spanish, but the Chiefs have been doing it since 2012.
“That’s an effort to get in front of that audience, which is growing,” said Donovan, who joined the Chiefs in 2009. “That’s one of the first things we talked about: ‘What can we do here to promote this, to utilize this, to create another point of contact with that demographic?'”
Play-by-play announcer Enrique Morales began Sunday’s broadcast of the game against the Arizona Cardinals with this (translated): “Welcome to Arrowhead … live from the loudest stadium in the world.”
The broadcast is available on the radio in Kansas City on KCTO-AM 1160, KPPZ-FM 100.5 and at Chiefs.com. The broadcasts also air on stations in Wichita and Garden City, Kansas.
“We don’t have real numbers of how many people are listening,” said Oscar Monterroso, the president of Tico Productions, which handles the broadcasts. “One thing we do know from comments we get on our Facebook page is that people who are listening are not only here in Kansas City. We have people who are following the Chiefs in Mexico and Costa Rica and all over Latin America. That’s the beauty of the internet and the beauty of social media. Communities aren’t so isolated.”
Monterroso was the color analyst on the Chiefs’ broadcasts until this season. He was born in Costa Rica and didn’t move to the United States until 1996, when he was 22.
“For me, it was a huge learning curve learning the American football,” he said. “When I saw it when I was little, I wondered why they call it football. It looked more like handball.”
— Tico Sports (@KCTicoSports) October 23, 2018
But he read some football books, including “Football for Dummies,” to increase his knowledge. He first got close to the game in 2005 when he was working for a radio station in San Antonio, Texas, that took in the Saints for some games that season because of Hurricane Katrina.
“Not growing up knowing the game but having to learn it, I have a lot of appreciation for what it is,” Monterroso said. “It’s a beautiful game and I really enjoy it. If I was able to do my high school years here in the United States, I would probably have fallen in love with the game way before I did.”
When they last played an international game, in London in 2015, the Chiefs had some fans make the trip from Kansas City. They also learned they had a small but loyal following among European fans.
They were hoping for a similar discovery in Mexico City.
“Anytime we have a chance to showcase the Kansas City Chiefs on a national or in this case international level, it’s a benefit to the organization,” Hunt said. “It’s a huge plus for us. We have a lot of fans, believe it or not, in Mexico already, but having a chance to play there will only grow that fan base.”
Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland went to Mexico City over the summer as part of the NFL group promoting Monday night’s game. As part of the trip, Ragland met a group of Chiefs fans at — appropriately for a Kansas City team — a barbecue restaurant.
“Everybody kept saying, ‘Go Chiefs,’ and all that stuff,” Ragland said. “It was fun. I had a good time.”