116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Mary Komisar’s quest began at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Oct. 19, 2003.
Her objective: Visit and attend a game at every National Football League team’s home stadium — 31 in total.
“The ‘Quest for 31’ is more about the atmosphere and seeing each stadium,” Komisar said. “I love the stadiums that had the crowd participation. I love the crowd noise. I love the tailgating. The whole experience is what it’s about.”
Now, hold on for a moment. … Aren’t there 32 stadiums since there are 32 teams?
It’s a bit of a trick question. When Komisar began her quest in 2003, there were 31 stadiums because the Giants and Jets shared Giants Stadium (now MetLife Stadium) in New York. And today, there are 30 because the Rams and Chargers share SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Don’t feel bad for answering that question incorrectly. It’s a question that stumped former NFL head coach Jim Mora.
“I’d flown into New Orleans, I’m at the airport and I’m getting on the shuttle bus that takes you to your hotel,” Komisar said. “All of a sudden, here comes coach Mora. I’m by myself at this game and there’s an empty seat next to me.
“He gets on, looks at me and said: ‘Is that seat taken?’ I said, ‘just by you coach, have a seat.’”
Komisar, a Marion resident, was in New Orleans visiting the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in December of 2019 for a matchup between the Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. Mora, a former Colts head coach, had flown into town for a radio show.
“We got to chit-chatting … I even stumped him on the ‘Quest for 31,’” Komisar said. “He goes, ‘But there’s 32 teams.’ I go, ‘And why is that?’ … I was pretty excited.”
In addition to meeting Mora on her New Orleans trip, Komisar was in attendance to see Drew Brees break two NFL records — one for all-time touchdown passes and the other for highest pass completion percentage in one game.
“That’s really cool when you’re there to witness an NFL record and they stop the game,” Komisar said.
Komisar’s love for football, particularly the NFL, developed at an early age.
Growing up, watching the NFL was a Sunday ritual in her household. Her father, Larry Churchill, a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, would root for Roger Staubach and Tom Landry while she enjoyed watching the Minnesota Vikings with Fran Tarkenton and Bud Grant.
“We’d say, ‘I bet you a quarter the Vikings beat the Cowboys,’” Komisar said. “So we would watch football and I always liked it.”
Komisar, a Marion High School graduate, wanted to be as close to the action as possible. She’d watch the neighborhood boys play football. In high school, she was a football cheerleader “not so much for the cheerleader part, but for the football part.”
Her desire to be near the football field continued to grow as an adult until she finally got the opportunity to attend an NFL game in 2003, thanks in large part to Pete Alepra, a fellow team member with Komisar at RBC Wealth Management in Cedar Rapids.
“I started working at RBC (in 2001), and Pete Alepra, he knew that I loved NFL football,” Komisar said. “He goes, ‘Well how many games have you been to?’ I said, ‘I haven’t been to any.’”
In October of 2003, Alepra approached Komisar and said: “What are you doing a week from Sunday? I’ve got two tickets that will be at will call in St. Louis for you. You’re going to a game.”
Komisar admitted she anticipated the stadium and experience being “larger than life.” However, upon entering the stadium and seeing the field, it wasn’t as overwhelming as she’d thought.
“When we finally got into the stadium and you’re walking in the tunnel to come out to the field, there’s that moment when you realize 100 yards is 100 yards,” she said. “You think, NFL ‘big’ but you look at the field and it’s still the same.”
In her first game, she saw Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers battle the St. Louis Rams.
What makes Komisar’s fandom unique is she’s not a fan of any particular team. When she attended stadiums, she’d always wear home team attire and cheer for the home team to get into “their atmosphere.”
“I remember, the Rams were playing the Packers and I yelled: ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Brett Favre.’ And everyone around me turns and looks at me and goes: ‘Why are you excited about Brett Favre?’” Komisar said. “I go, oh well … It was a good game and a great experience.”
Her second adventure also was thanks in part to a fellow RBC employee.
“I got lucky, my second stadium was Minnesota,” she said. “Our branch director at the time could not be outdone by Pete. He was able to get me a couple of tickets. So I didn’t pay for my first two, which was very nice.”
Komisar’s husband, Tony, attended the first two stadiums with her. And while she visited multiple stadiums by herself, she often enjoyed bringing along other family members and friends on her trips.
Her ritual was to arrive two to three hours before the game and walk the perimeter outside the stadium. And when she traveled, she’d typically try to go for three or four days to experience each city.
After having tickets for her first two games paid for, Komisar knew her quest must continue. So in addition to working full-time, she began waiting tables.
“Someone gave me the push, and then I figured out the way,” Komisar said. “I waited tables for 15 years part-time to help pay for this, because it is not cheap.”
Following Minnesota, the next stop on her tour was Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in September of 2005.
“I loved all the stadiums for different reasons,” Komisar said. “It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. If I had to pick, it wouldn’t be for the stadium, it’d be for crowd participation. I’d go with Kansas City and ‘the chop.’”
Komisar said she enjoyed seeing “Fireman Ed” lead the “J-E-T-S, Jet, Jet, Jets” chant in front of 70,000 fans at Giants Stadium during her visit in September of 2009.
Another memorable experience was receiving “Cam Newton’s hat” while visiting Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte in October of 2011.
“My Carolina Panthers hat I like to say is Cam Newton’s hat,” Komisar said. “Because where we sat, at the end of the game, Panther players were coming, we were right by where they go into the tunnel and Cam was in the group of players that was running off.
“And as they were running off, all of a sudden this hat comes flying up out of the tunnel. I don’t know whose, but Cam was in the group, so I say it’s Cam’s hat.”
While it didn’t count toward her 31, Komisar has fond memories of visiting Wembley Stadium in London and attending two games in 2017 with her late friend and former Marion classmate, Tim Sieck.
“We were there for 10 days and we knew there were two Sundays, so we planned our trip accordingly,” Komisar said. “That was really cool because, it’s London. You saw jerseys of every NFL team.”
This trip was particularly special for her because it ended up being the last she’d take with Sieck.
“That’s another thing, when people go ‘Oh, I’ll do that kind of fun stuff when I retire.’ Well, don’t wait,” Komisar said. “Do it. If you can find a way to do something, whether it’s this, or baseball stadiums, national parks, whatever it is, don’t wait.”
Komisar completed her quest on Sept. 21, 2021 at Lumen Field in Seattle with her husband alongside.
“We were supposed to do it in 2020, which would’ve been really cool because it would’ve been our 31st wedding anniversary that year and my ‘Quest for 31’ would’ve been complete,” Komisar said. “But COVID had other ideas.”
While there are a few teams that are playing in different home stadiums than they were when she first began her quest (due to construction of a new stadium or team relocation), Komisar feels her mission is complete.
“We finished this year and I am done,” she said. “I went to the old stadiums before they tore them down.
“I always made a point to get to a stadium before they tore it down, when they were building a new one. Because for me, when I was watching when I was younger, that’s the stadium where I saw those memories being made.”
Komisar said if the opportunity presented itself, she would “definitely” like to visit the new stadiums, but it’s not on her bucket list.
“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you have to go to the new stadium.’ Well, if I happen to be in that city on another vacation and it works, I will. And if I don’t, I don’t,” Komisar said.
A few other highlights of her quest include getting her picture taken on the Dallas Cowboys’ midfield star at Texas Stadium in 2008; being in the background of a national TV set wearing mascot heads with her friend Karen Hacke in San Diego in 2013; sitting in the “Black Hole” section for a Raiders game in 2016; attending the Thanksgiving Day parade in Detroit outside of Ford Field in 2018; and spectating from the “Hawks Nest” in Seattle in 2021.
“If you’re going to do it, you do it,” Komisar said.
“I don’t watch football from the head, I do it from the heart. Without writing it down, I don’t remember who played who, I don’t remember stats — I just love it for the game.”
1. Edward Jones Dome — Oct. 19, 2003 (St. Louis Rams)
2. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome — Nov. 21, 2004 (Minnesota Vikings)
3. Arrowhead Stadium — Sept. 11, 2005 (Kansas City Chiefs)
4. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome — Sept. 25, 2005 (Minnesota Vikings, second visit*)
5. Soldier Field — Sept. 17, 2006 (Chicago Bears)
6. Lambeau Field — Aug. 23, 2007 (Green Bay Packers)
7. RCA Dome — Sept. 30, 2007 (Indianapolis Colts)
8. Texas Stadium — Oct. 26, 2008 (Dallas Cowboys)
9. Giants Stadium — Sept. 20, 2009 (New York Jets and New York Giants)
10. Lucas Oil Stadium — Oct. 10, 2010 (Indianapolis Colts, first visit to new stadium*)
11. Bank of America Stadium — Oct. 23, 2011 (Carolina Panthers)
12. EverBank Field — Sept. 16, 2012 (Jacksonville Jaguars)
13. Georgia Dome — Sept. 17, 2012 (Atlanta Falcons)
14. Candlestick Park — Sept. 8, 2013 (San Francisco 49ers)
15. Qualcomm Stadium — Sept. 9, 2013 (San Diego Chargers)
16. Lincoln Financial Field — Oct. 12, 2014 (Philadelphia Eagles)
17. Gillette Stadium — Oct. 16, 2014 (New England Patriots)
18. Paul Brown Stadium — Sept. 20, 2015 (Cincinnati Bengals)
19. Heinz Field — Oct. 1, 2015 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
20. FedEx Field — Oct. 4, 2015 (Washington Redskins/Football Team)
21. University of Phoenix Stadium — Oct. 26, 2015 (Arizona Cardinals)
22. New Era Field — Sept. 15, 2016 (Buffalo Bills)
23. FirstEnergy Stadium — Sept. 18, 2016 (Cleveland Browns)
24. Sports Authority Field at Mile High — Oct. 9, 2016 (Denver Broncos)
25.Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum — Oct. 16, 2016 (Oakland Raiders)
26. Nissan Stadium — Sept. 10, 2017 (Tennessee Titans)
27. Wembley Stadium — Sept. 24 and Oct. 1, 2017 (N/A)
28.M&T Bank Stadium — Sept. 23, 2018 (Baltimore Ravens)
29. NRG Stadium — Oct. 14, 2018 (Houston Texans)
30. Ford Field — Nov. 22, 2018 (Detroit Lions)
31.U.S. Bank Stadium — Oct. 13, 2019 (Minnesota Vikings, first visit to new stadium*)
32. Hard Rock Stadium — Nov. 3, 2019 (Miami Dolphins)
33. Raymond James Stadium — Nov. 10, 2019 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
34.Mercedes-Benz Superdome — Dec. 16, 2019 (New Orleans Saints)
35. Lumen Field — Sept. 19, 2021 (Seattle Seahawks)