KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The AFC divisional playoff game between the Steelers and Chiefs on Sunday has been moved from an early afternoon kickoff to primetime because of an ice storm due to hit the Kansas City area this weekend.
The game was originally scheduled to kick off at 12:05 p.m. Central time. It will now start at 7:20 p.m. to give road crews and public safety officials more time to treat roads and parking lots.
“If people are going to the game, slow down, leave early and be cautious,” said Troy Schulte, the city manager for Kansas City, Missouri, where Arrowhead Stadium sits just off Interstate 70.
The forecast calls for ice to move into the area Friday, and persistent cold temperatures throughout Saturday and Sunday. More precipitation is expected Sunday, though mostly in the form of cold rain.
“We talked about all the options. We talked about the factors that went into making the decision,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said, but “it’s the Commissioner’s decision.”
Donovan said he began having conversations with the league office on Wednesday, when the forecast began to look dire. Those discussions continued Thursday, and he spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday morning, at which point the league decided to move the kickoff time.
“This storm has the potential to be pretty damaging,” Donovan said. “We talked a lot about the weather, what the experts are telling us. It’s changed so much the last few days, we wanted to make sure we had the most up-to-date information. But we also talked about the importance of making a decision quickly so we can prepare.”
The time change means the Packers-Cowboys game scheduled to kick off at 3:40 p.m. Central time on Fox on Sunday will serve as the lead-in for the Steelers-Chiefs game, which will remain on NBC.
The Chiefs have already played a couple of home games in inclement weather this season, including a frigid matchup with Tennessee in early December. The official temperature at kickoff that day was 1 degree, which tied the 1983 season finale against Denver for coldest game in Arrowhead Stadium history.
As if the cold, wet weather expected Sunday night wasn’t bad enough, the Chiefs decided to re-sod the field between the hash marks earlier this week, which could leave a quagmire for the game.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan said Monday the grounds crew monitored the forecast to determine the best time to do the work, but that forecast has changed considerably since the decision was made.
“Based on milder temperatures coming in, felt like we could do it this weekend,” Donovan said. “It’s always something that our grounds crew is a little nervous on just because you want to see everything come off the truck the right way, you want it to go down the right way.”
The Steelers are planning to leave for Kansas City earlier than normal on Saturday to account for the weather, though team officials did not specify when they planned to arrive.
“The Steelers have been monitoring the potential storm near Kansas City and fully support the NFL’s decision to move the game to Sunday night,” team spokesman Burt Lauten said.
This isn’t the first time they’ve dealt with time changes, either.
In 2004, Ben Roethlisberger’s first NFL start against the Miami Dolphins was delayed from an early afternoon kickoff to a night game because of Hurricane Jeanne. The hurricane moved out by game time, but a tropical depression brought rain, wind and muddy conditions for the game.
The Steelers also had to adapt travel plans because of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 for their game against the New York Giants. They wound up arriving the same day as the game, rather than traveling the day before like normal, and proceeded to win 24-20.
Not surprisingly, the hazardous weather has sent ticket prices plummeting. The game is expected to be sold out, but tickets on the secondary market were available for about $50 in the upper levels of Arrowhead Stadium on Friday afternoon, and lower-level seats were about $100.
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.