Livestrong Sporting Park Set To Make Debut With Focus On Technology
Livestrong Sporting Park "will take its place among the finest soccer stadiums in the world when it opens" tonight for a Fire-Sporting KC MLS match, according to Doug Tucker of the AP. The 18,467-seat stadium "boasts technological innovations which Sporting KC proclaims is 'the next generation of fan experience.'" Cisco Connected Sports Solutions "offers high-def video, interactive fan services and digital content" throughout the facility. More than 150 WiFi access points "will accommodate mobile and hand-held devices." Also, more than 330 HDTVs will be "placed around the stadium, the first MLS park fully equipped" with the technology. In the "plush home locker room, players will sit on $5,000 seats imported from Spain." The seats are "equipped with power docks so they can access information during halftime." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "Without a doubt, this is the most technologically advanced soccer stadium in the country" (AP, 6/8). Sporting KC CIO & Chief Architect Asim Pasha noted that the team "has designs on a series of micro-function apps that would allow you to watch video highlights from your seat, share pictures of your experience at the game and order merchandise or food directly from your seat." That will be "part of a larger membership platform that will allow fans to share pictures, videos and experiences." Many of those features "could roll out as soon as later this summer" (K.C. STAR, 6/5).
GETTING A KICK: In K.C., Terez Paylor noted the new stadium has "generated a buzz around the team that wouldn't otherwise be there." Sporting KC already has sold "around 11,000 season tickets, which blows away the total before last year's home opener (around 3,000) and should greatly improve the team's revenue streams." Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman: "We like the fact we'll be able to walk into the board meetings in Major League Soccer and not be last in merchandise sales and not be last in ticket sales and not be last in attendance" (K.C. STAR, 6/8). Also in K.C., Lisa Gutierrez notes, "For fans who like to sit high and watch the battle plan unfold, the uppermost seats are sloped to put them closer to the action." And Sporting KC VP/Development David Ficklin said that the lowest seats are "closer to the playing field than in most soccer stadiums." The team's supporters club will occupy the "Members Stand," a bleacher seating area that will accommodate 2,000 people (K.C. STAR, 6/9). Heineman said, "This stadium for us, this is our David Beckham. We wanted to build a true soccer stadium. We didn't want to build an outdoor event center that had soccer played in it" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 6/9).
IT WAS ALL YELLOW: The AP's Tucker notes Sporting KC is "defending its relationship" with Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation. The club "agreed in March to donate $7.5 million to the foundation over the next six years." That was before a report on CBS' "60 Minutes" last month "raised allegations of performance-enhancing drug use" by Armstrong. Ficklin said, "Our relationship is with Livestrong, that fantastic philanthropic organization that gives hope and advocates for a cure for cancer. That's who we are partnered with and that's the cause we've chosen to advocate" (AP, 6/8). In St. Louis, Tom Timmermann notes while Sporting KC "gave away a source of revenue that is vital to many clubs" by not selling naming rights to their stadium, the move "might pay for itself." Sporting KC co-Owner Cliff Illig said, "We now have a number of sponsors who are aligned with Lance's foundation that are interested in expressing themselves here. Those are sponsors we probably would not have been able to do something with on our own" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/9).
EAT UP: Delaware North Regional Exec Chef Jeramie Mitchell, whose company is in charge of concessions at Livestrong Sporting Park, said that BBQ stands throughout the venue "will serve up beef brisket ($6), pulled pork ($6), and ribs ($10) smoked on-site." He added that "each barbecue stand will feature a sauce station with six to 10 sauces from local barbecue restaurants." In K.C., Charles Gooch noted concession stands also will "serve bacon-wrapped hot dogs ($8.75) loaded with baked beans, pickle, pico de gallo and barbecue sauce, and Kansas City strip steak sandwiches ($10.50) cooked to order." The "premier menu" in the suites will feature "dressed-up dishes like Buffalo Chicken Mac 'n' Cheese, cheesy pasta tossed with spicy chicken and topped with melted blue cheese" (INKKC.com, 6/7). The facility also will feature Niagara Dispensing’s Exactap, meaning "certain areas of the stadium will be able to pour a pint in 4 seconds." There will be "several beers to choose from at the stadium," including "several Guinness taps." Budweiser, a founding partner of the stadium, will be the "only beer supplier with signs around the park" (K.C. STAR, 6/8).
MAN IN CHARGE: In K.C., J. Brady McCollough writes under Heineman, Sporting KC "has grabbed attention wherever it can, screaming about innovation while controversially changing its brand from Wizards to Sporting Kansas City." The club this spring brought in Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco to "train with the team -- an exercise some viewed as a pure publicity stunt" -- and signed the naming-rights deal with Livestrong. Heineman also has "spearheaded the club’s membership program." The club is "offering free membership in their online network -- staff members armed with iPads will patrol the stadium tonight in hopes of convincing patrons to sign up." Sporting Club members "will have access to the Members’ Club area of the stadium." The club already has been "offering members free tickets to road games, losing money now to gain loyalty later." McCollough reports Sporting KC's owners are "tens of millions of dollars in debt, but they’re willing to go further into the red because they believe in the long-term investment" (K.C. STAR, 6/9).
COME SEE FOR YOURSELF: A check of Ticketmaster's site at 10:00am ET shows plenty of tickets remain for tonight's Fire-Sporting KC game at Livestrong Sporting Park. Fans could buy two seats together in five of six price categories. Only single tickets remain for $20 general admission seats. Ticket prices for reserved seats are $28, $35, $40, $45 and $50 before convenience fees are added to the total cost (Don Muret, SportsBusiness Journal).