I’m not a soccer fan. Let’s get that out in the open. I think the game is boring. Before you suggest I watch a match, I have. I watched a match-up between two top 10 college teams a few years ago. I left at intermission.
A recent tour of the Sporting Kansas City’s home field at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, however, may cause me to rethink my position of not caring to watch another game. The tour was part of a Kansas tourism event my wife and I attended. Nikki of the team’s marketing department led the tour for about 40 writers, photographers, bloggers and travel enthusiasts.
The layout of the stadium was interesting. I’m a fan of stadium tours, and this one impressed me. The stadium seats about 18,500 fans. Nikki said the crowd can get quite loud during matches, especially when the home team scores a goal.
Near the entrance is the Scarf Wall. Apparently, more than 100 years ago, the scarf made an appearance at soccer matches in Europe. They helped keep people warm on cold, rainy game days. Today, they serve the same purpose, but they also make a great cheering accessory. Fans wave them above their heads during matches. The Kansas City wall showcases scarves donated to the team. Hundreds of scarves from all over hang along the wall.
Included in the main concourse, autographed jerseys from visiting teams hang on a wall. They represent national teams who have played matches on the pitch (why not call it a field, like every other sport?).
Before they were Sporting KC, the team was known as the Kansas City Wizards. They played at Arrowheard Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs. The Wizards were owned by the Chiefs’ founder, the late Lamar Hunt.
A group of local businessmen stepped up and bought the team when Hunt decided to move the Wizards due to poor fan support at the games. The Wizards averaged about 4,000 fans per game at Arrowhead, which was built to seat more than 60,000 people. The new owners changed its name to Sporting KC, to develop a European flavor. The sale also meant a new playing field, which eventually ended with Children’s Mercy Park.
Standing at the edge of the pitch, you realize how large the field is and how much running the players have to do during each match. The stadium must be deafening to players when the fans roar.
Sporting KC has won Major League Soccer championships and consistently challenges for postseason play. The team is now one of the top sellers for team merchandise in the league. A Wall of Honor is located in one corner of the stadium, highlighting postseason accomplishments and the team’s Hall of Fame members.
The thing I enjoy most about tours is the behind-the-scenes spots you get to see. The team’s locker room is impressive. The room features expensive chairs in front of each player’s lockers. Visiting teams walk past the locker room from their room to the field. The team wants to show potential future players how well they’ll be treated in KC, Nikki joked.
The postgame interview room features the team’s logo in the backdrop and soccer-related photos on the walls. Depending on the visiting team, interviews can consist of a dozen or more media members.
Players aren’t the only ones treated well. Suite owners and bigtime supporters have special lounges and restaurants for their enjoyment.
The view of the stadium from the press box isn’t anything to scoff at. The press box can hold a couple dozen surly sportswriters.
I enjoyed our tour of Sporting KC’s stadium. Has it changed my view about not being a soccer fan? Maybe, I need to take in a game at Children’s Mercy Park and see if that will help me add the sport to my list to watch. Regardless, if you get a chance to take a tour of the stadium, I encourage you to do so.
For more information on Sporting KC, visit www.sportingkc.com.