Pull into the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot for a Kansas City Chiefs game and what do you notice? Besides the plume of smoke from the barbeque grills, you can’t miss the sea of red. Not only do fans wear the colors, more tailgate vehicles display them.
And, in recent years, more old school buses are converted into party buses.
As time ran short before the Chiefs pre-season opener against Seattle on Aug. 13, Dallas Kidd and his co-workers used 30 cans of spray paint to transform a small, old yellow school bus into a party vehicle for Chiefs games.
“In a long-route way, the bus is kind of shaping up very nice,” says Kidd with a laugh.
Dallas Kidd lives in Olathe, co-owns a property management company and in his spare time cheers for the Chiefs. He wasn’t planning to own a bus, but William Guthrie—everyone calls him Woody—stumbled upon this 1985 model with 130,000 miles on it. He paid $500 for it on the spot. Guthrie’s next call? To his buddy, Dallas Kidd. “I called him because I knew he was a ticket holder and we’re always going to out there and tailgating anyway,” says Guthrie, who lives in Harrisonville.
Shaking a can of spray paint, Guthrie joined Kidd and his co-workers at Kidd’s business headquarters, Under Pressure Property Services, in Kansas City, Kansas. The yellow is disappearing underneath a coat of black, red and gold.
It’s a long way from its original purpose of transporting kids to and from school. “The only thing it doesn’t have is a stop sign, which we were all bummed about,” says Kidd. “But it was definitely a school bus.”
So how does a school bus go from carrying restless kids to hauling Chiefs fans to games? After the miles add up, the school district or the bus company retires them.
“Usually age and mileage are the two main factors,” cited Dr. Travis Hux of the Raytown school district, which owns and operates its own buses.
He says, in the past, the district issued a public notice for bidders, then it sold its buses to the highest bidder.
“Literally we’ve had everything from a dealership to just an average Joe walking in off the street that wants to buy a bus for one reason or another,” says Dr. Hux.
A diesel engine rumbles in what was once a 70-passenger bus. Its co-owner is Chad Gilbert of Kansas City, Kansas, and it’s named Bus 58. “The body maker was named Thomas, which was great because we ended up naming our bus after the late, great (Chiefs Hall of Famer) Derrick Thomas,” says Gilbert.
Gilbert was into auto mechanics, but not buses. “Bus and large people movers were not really anything I had studied at all,” says Gilbert.
Gilbert, a Wyandotte County sheriff’s deputy, as a result learned a lot. For example, diesel engines are more durable than the gas engines under the hood of smaller buses. He became somewhat of an expert and started watching the prices.
“I mean it was almost like watching a stock market. At some point, I knew about what a certain bus combination—engine, transmission, body combination—I knew what it’s worth,” says Gilbert.
Gilbert thought buses around Kansas City were too pricey. He found Bus 58 in upstate New York. Outside Albany. He and his brother, Paul, bought the 2001 model five years ago and drove it all the way back. The bus was perfect for their group of 30.
“We were going in with four, five or six vehicles at a time,” Gilbert recalled before owning a bus. “Then you try to re-congregate. Everyone has to pay to get in. Always, somebody gets lost. Somebody gets turned around.”
Inside Bus 58, it’s nothing fancy. He moved seats to each side to make room for the coolers in the middle aisle.
“It really opens it up like a living room. It was perfect to use the same seats rather than discard them and come up with something else, which I think is a mistake a lot of other people make,” says Gilbert. “Might as well stay with the industrial seats you were given. They were made to last and they work wonderfully.”
While Bus 58’s exterior is fire engine red with a white roof and a Chiefs arrowhead logo on the front hood, Gilbert kept the same hideous lime sherbet color inside dating back to its days on the school route. But it serves their purpose.
Other tailgate bus owners customize their rides to their liking inside and out with vinyl wrapped photos, enhanced heating and air, hanging memorabilia, satellite TV hook-ups. Even some fancy horns.
Chiefs president Mark Donovan says he and Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt have checked some of the buses out.
“We get a lot of feedback from people that send us the photos of them and ask us to come out and see them,” says Donovan. “There hasn’t been a game yet where we haven’t gone out yet and visited one or two. It’s impressive.”
For large groups, buses can be practical. Parking expenses at Arrowhead are mounting. A car costs $40 on game day and RV or bus $70. More Chiefs fans are looking to save a few dollars combining their efforts in traveling to home games in larger vehicles.
Plus, the owners don’t mind being contacted to host birthday parties, bachelor parties, bar mitzvahs or whatever onboard.
In the meantime, if the Chiefs have another season like last year when they won ten in a row, look for more potential bus owners to hop on the bandwagon.