A chance meeting between two Kansas City Chiefs fans has given hundreds in Little Rock a place to get together to root on their beloved team, which is defending its Super Bowl title Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in its home stadium in Florida.
”It’s the camaraderie,” Central Arkansas Chiefs (CAC) co-founder Chandler Hickman said. “Mostly all of our members have some type of connection to the Kansas City area. Either they were born and raised there, lived there or have family members currently living there. I’ve met CAC members that I have so much in common with, including being a cancer survivor. It’s such a wonderful feeling and so amazing to see the Sea of Red here in Central Arkansas.”
In early 2017, Hickman was on his way in to the Tropical Smoothie Café in the midtown section of Little Rock when he spotted Allen Meyers with his dog in a grassy section of the parking lot. Meyers was wearing Chiefs gear, which prompted Hickman to say, “Go Chiefs.”
Hickman, who became a fan in the mid-80s when he first saw Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on a trip to visit family, asked if Meyers was a fan or just liked the colors. When Meyers told him his dog, which was standing next to him, was named ‘Chief,’ Hickman had his answer. They visited for 30 minutes and exchanged numbers.
The two agreed it would be fun to watch the game with other KC fans. In 2018, the two created a Facebook fan page and a week later, Hickman watched a Chiefs game with fellow fan Brian Robertson. The week after, the group grew to five. Emily Mitchell, who Hickman dubbed ‘The First Lady of CAC,’ and Solomon ‘Solo’ Martin and Ulenzen King. All have become core members of the group, and King and Martin are both flying to Tampa Saturday to be in attendance for the game.
By last season with the Chiefs’ success and the Facebook group growing, large groups were showing up at area sports bars and restaurants Hickman arranged. The Super Bowl party at JJ’s Bar and Grill included close to 100 Chiefs fans, which in the end had a lot to cheer about.
“Once the game clock expired, and we actually won the Super Bowl, I had no other reaction but tears of joy and relief from so many pent-up emotions,” Hickman said. “It felt like we all were a part of the Kansas City Chiefs organization in this historical moment.”
The group had planned a victory celebration in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceled it. However, the pandemic didn’t keep the group from meeting during the season as the Chiefs made another Super Bowl run.
“A great deal has changed due to Covid and the pandemic guidelines,” Hickman said. “Once this season started, we tried our best to keep the flame burning, but it was only smart to alter our watch parties and embraced the “pods” concept. We encouraged members to gather into small groups to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading the virus. We gave the pods cool names like.. Wasp 365, Staying Mahomes, Chiefs Den, Smoke Signals and Run It Back to name a few.”
Hickman said CAC will meet Sunday at Gusano’s Pizzeria in west Little Rock. The Facebook invite indicates 13 have committed (Hickman expects 30) with seven ‘maybes’ out of the 210 in the group.
“I’m hoping for a festive crowd with some wild and spirited outfits,” he said. “That’s an area that I kind of get into is the Super Bowl outfits. The main thing, I’m looking forward to is another Super Bowl victory. We haven’t played our best ball yet so now is the time to show the world that we are the champions of the NFL.
No matter what happens on the field or the number that show up Hickman and Meyers have given Chiefs fans in Little Rock another way to connect.