The opening of LiveStrong Park is set for Sunday. With this exciting event just days away, we thought it appropriate to set the stage for Major League Soccer’s newest SSS. In September, 2006, On-Goal, LLC purchased the Kansas City Wizards from Hunt Sports Group. Led by Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig, the purchase brought a local ownership group to MLS and started a new wave of MLS franchise sales that included Houston and DC United. At the time, Kansas City was playing to small crowds in massive Arrowhead Stadium and was one of three MLS teams in the Hunt stable. OnGoal brought limited sports expertise to the transaction, but expressed its desire to build a “world class” soccer specific stadium by April, 2009 and a refreshing enthusiasm to the League.
The team didn’t make 2009, but they did make 20011. Kansas and the local county offered $230 million in incentives to lure Cerner and the team to Kansas. According to this article from the AP, the Cerner-Sporting deal may create 9,000 jobs in Kansas and politicians on both sides of the aisle are eager to make the deal happen. The 18,500 seat, natural grass stadium will feature 36 suites, 300 HD televisions and fully covered seating. There will also be 6 locker rooms, an 1800 square foot video board and 6 locker rooms. The stadium web cam (complete with a presenting sponsor), can be found here. The June 9 home opener will be one of 3 home games for the team in June. The match against the Fire will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
In what Sports Business Daily termed “one of the most surprising deals of the year, Livestrong was announced as the naming rights sponsor for the new stadium. The deal will cost Livestrong nothing, and will tie Sporting’s name with the well known cancer charity in return for the gift. Moreover, for the duration of the agreement, a portion of stadium revenues, including ticket sales, will go to the charity. The deal is estimated at $8 million dollars over 6 years (with the money running from the team to the charity).
American soccer fans will be watching on Thursday when LiveStrong Park opens for business. This is an exciting time for Sporting and another great moment for MLS.