KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce promised thousands of fans celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl championship Wednesday that the team will be back for more.
During a boisterous victory rally at downtown's Union Station after a parade, Mahomes and Kelce joked about “experts” who predicted the just-concluded NFL season would be a rebuilding year for the Chiefs, who defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 on Sunday.
“We're back again, we're back again,” Mahomes, the NFL's regular season and Super Bowl MVP, told thousands of cheering fans clad in the Chiefs' red and gold team colors.
“When we started this season the AFC West said we were rebuilding," Mahomes said. "I'll be honest with you, I don't know what rebuilding means. In our rebuilding year, we're world champs, we're world champs.”
Kelce noted that some "haters” predicted the Chiefs wouldn't even make the playoffs.
“In all reality, this was this best season of my life,” Kelce said. “I owe it to (the fans), I owe it to the guys on this stage, I owe it to everybody in Chiefs Kingdom and the organization we've been able to create.”
Celebrating his second Super Bowl win with the Chiefs, coach Andy Reid told the crowd that “there's no place you'd rather be, and no greater place to be than right here, baby. ... Not very often are you able to say you're the greatest team in the world, you have the greatest players in the world, have the greatest organization in the world and, most of all, the greatest fans in the world."
The rally festivites wrapped up a day that began with some fans who slept overnight — and others arriving before sunrise —to get a prime spot downtown to celebrate the Chiefs' second Super Bowl championship in four NFL seasons.
Players, coaches, team officials, family members and others rode double-decker buses past legions of fans, sometimes standing up to 10 people deep, as the parade rolled down a main downtown street on the way to the Union Station rally.
Many players got off the buses to dance, sign autographs, take selfies and occasionally hand out beers to supporters along the route. Some lucky fans were able to touch the Lombardi Trophy, which denoted the Chiefs' win.
Most schools, many businesses and some government offices in the Kansas City metro area were closed to allow fans to enjoy the festivities. Most were in good spirits while waiting in long lines for food trucks, merchandise trucks and, of course, portable toilets. Police did not immediately report any major problems during the event.
After decades of championship drought, the city is gaining experience with victory parades. Four seasons ago, the Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers for the team’s first Super Bowl championship in 50 years. That followed the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series in 2015, the city’s first baseball championship in 30 years.
Shellie Diehl, 46, of Kansas City, was seated about a block from Union Station, joined by her 8-year-old daughter, Skyler; 16-year-old daughter, Taylor; and a friend. Diehl said she came to the Chiefs parade in 2020 and decided to have mother-daughter time on Wednesday while celebrating Skyler's first parade.
“The last one was so much fun, we decided we had to come to this one,” Diehl said. “We're big Chiefs fans, and we wanted to celebrate a great day with the community.”
Some fans admitted that Kansas City might be getting a little spoiled.
“Kind of getting used to it, but that's OK,” said Liz Barber, 50, of Shawnee, Kansas. “It is good.”
“We had a 50-year-drought, so it’s about time we had our own dynasty,” said David Cordray, 38, of Kansas City.
Some 25 Chiefs fans who arrived about 6 a.m. cooked up a breakfast feast, complete with corn on the cob, bacon and potatoes and all the trimmings — and they had steaks ready for later in the day. Dominic Zamora, 18, said the group of friends were continuing a tailgating tradition at Chiefs games.
“With Mahomes, there's more to come,” Zamora said. “It's going to be fun, and I'm excited to show up."
Manuel Palacio, 48, was dressed in a cow's suit in a tribute to Kansas City's “Cowtown” nickname. He said he was a longtime Buffalo Bills fan who converted to the Chiefs after losing a bet with a Chiefs fan.
“I had to convert,” Palacio said. “It's like being an Oakland Raiders fan; at some point you have to cheer for the team who keeps winning,” he said, laughing.
Officials began planning the parade weeks before the Chiefs defeated the Eagles on a field goal with 8 seconds remaining in the game. Kansas City police said about 675 law enforcement officers from more than 20 agencies, along with fire departments and transportation officials, were deployed for Wednesday's event.
The City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earmarked $750,000 for parade-related expenses, while Mayor Quinton Lucas estimated overtime costs for police and firefighters would total more than $1.5 million. The Kansas City Sports Commission was expected to contribute another $1 million in private donations for parade expenses and sponsorships, and the Jackson County Legislature voted to add $75,000.
Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City contributed to this story.
This story has been updated to correct that it's Kansas City’s second championship in four seasons, not in two years.