SBD/March 9, 2011/Facilities

Livestrong Becomes Naming-Rights Partner For Sporting K.C.'s New Stadium

Livestrong Sporting Park will be tobacco free both inside and outside stadium
The Livestrong cancer foundation and MLS Sporting K.C. have agreed to a unique six-year naming-rights deal for the club’s new $200M stadium, set to open June 9. Sporting K.C. will donate a percentage of all sales at Livestrong Sporting Park to the foundation, which will not pay a fee to the club. Sporting K.C. President Robb Heineman estimates the club could donate between $8-10M to the foundation over the six-year partnership. Heineman said, “It’s either groundbreaking or it’s crazy, and there will be people to call (the relationship) both. What we’re trying to do is more than just have a soccer team and a soccer stadium. We want to be part of the social fabric of the community.” The stadium sits 10 miles west of downtown K.C., and it seats 18,500 for soccer games and 25,000 for concerts. Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman said the deal “makes a lot of sense” for the foundation. Ulman: “It speaks to the dedication of the team ownership and their desire to do something different" (Fred Dreier, SportsBusiness Journal).

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: Livestrong Founder Lance Armstrong, who attended yesterday's press conference to announce the partnership, is "particularly pleased to learn that Livestrong Sporting Park will be completely tobacco free inside the stadium and outside on the grounds." He said that the partnership is an "amazing opportunity for the entire community to get involved in something special" (, 3/8). In K.C., Terez Paylor notes "no stadiums or arenas" in MLS, MLB, the NBA, NFL or NHL are named after a charity. The "hope is that by partnering with Armstrong, who has the ear of several popular musical artists, the club can easily recoup, through concerts, the estimated $2 million to $3 million a year it gave up by giving away the stadium’s naming rights." Heineman said, "I believe we’ll have entertainers who otherwise wouldn’t have played our venue." The partnership is "similar to one forged" between FC Barcelona and UNICEF in '06. The La Liga club agreed to pay UNICEF to "put the nonprofit's logo on its jerseys." Heineman said that it "didn't influence Sporting KC's thinking much," and Paylor notes fans should not "expect to see the Livestrong logo on Sporting KC’s uniform anytime soon." adidas provides jerseys for all MLS teams, and Livestrong is a Nike-affiliated brand. Heineman noted that he talked to MLS Commissioner Don Garber "about the fact that Sporting KC’s biggest partner has direct ties to Nike, one of adidas’ rivals." Livestrong Sporting Park's logo is "absent of any swooshes" (K.C. STAR, 3/9).

A GOOD SPORT: In Kansas, Tom Keegan writes under the header, "Sporting KC Hits Home Run." Keegan: "Until Monday, I always thought nobody ever had crushed a ball farther out of the park with a stadium naming than the New York Yankees when they branded their spring training home Legends Field. Now it ranks no better than second place, and a distant second at that" (LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD, 3/9). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes under the header, "Sporting KC's Stadium Name Is Nearly Pitch Perfect." This is "business mixed with charity, which would otherwise be perfectly fine because Sporting KC is a business and Armstrong is an American icon." But Sporting K.C. also is "heavily invested in children and their parents, and Armstrong’s personal and professional lives are by now muddied with ugliness including an ongoing grand-jury investigation regarding allegations of illegal performance-enhancing drug use." Mellinger writes, "There are traces of self-interest in this deal between Sporting KC and Livestrong, more than either side would let on publicly. And that’s fine, as long as we all understand it. The net result is more money to fight cancer. More sports owners should use their self-interest like this" (K.C. STAR, 3/9).
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