Sporting KC Helps Make City A Soccer Boomtown, With Stadium Major Attraction
MLS Sporting KC's home city, host of the MLS All-Star Game on July 31, "has become an unlikely hotbed for professional soccer," according to Sam Borden of the N.Y. TIMES. Sources said that the "rise of the sport in the heart of the United States has been so sharp ... that it now rivals the standard set by the league’s two most prominent success stories" in the Sounders and Timbers. Attendance at K.C.'s soccer stadium, Sporting Park, is "at capacity." The U.S. men's national team has "made the area a regular part of its rotation for important international matches." Even TV ratings, which have "long been disappointing for MLS, are at least increasing on a relative scale." The turnaround has been "startling: as recently as seven years ago," when the team was called the Wizards, merchandise sales "ranked last in MLS." As recently as three years ago, the number of people watching games on TV "frequently came in at numbers that one might be only slightly above those for public-access shows." The team's "relevance cannot be denied." Local sports talk radio segments now are "dedicated to soccer -- something unimaginable in the past" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24).
MODEL FOR TORONTO: The CP's Neil Davidson reported Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is "looking at ways to improve BMO Field." MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke is "dispatching some of the MLS club’s front office" to the All-Star Game to see the US$200M-plus Sporting Park, which opened in June '11. Leiweke said, "Kansas City’s stadium is fantastic. They market it the right way, they sell it the right way. [Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman and co-Majority Owner Cliff Illig] do the best job in the league. ... They are phenomenal and we should all aspire to be Kansas City and Portland and Vancouver and now Montreal." Leiweke added, "We owe our fans more. We need to figure out a way to take it to the next level" (CP, 7/23).