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Sporting Kansas City elated to finally embrace new stadium

LIVESTRONG Park

Photo Credit: 
Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Slowly but surely, the crescendo is building in Kansas City.

Hours remain before Livestrong Sporting Park opens its doors, and workers are still scurrying around to put the final touches on the $200 million, 18,500-seat stadium that Sporting Kansas City will call home.

Painters are touching up anything that doesn’t sparkle. Crews of workers are scrubbing seats and making sure no hair is out of place. The suites and clubs are all getting one final inspection. The kitchen staff is busy perfecting their succulent offerings.

Sporting don’t just want Thursday’s grand opening to be a memorable occasion. They want every last minuscule detail to be perfect when their fans come through the gates for the first time after years of waiting for just such a moment.    

“I think they will be in awe, just like all [the players] were,” defender Michael Harrington said. “I just know when it gets filled up and everything gets going, it’s going to be like a crazy party with 20,000 people. It’s going to be something special.”

All things considered, it seems a fitting reward for 15 seasons spent as vagabonds, forever searching for a permanent home that never quite materialized. After years as tenants, bouncing around inside cavernous Arrowhead Stadium or making due with a converted minor league baseball stadium, Kansas City finally have the key to their first place.

And, boy, was it worth waiting for.

Sure, there were plenty of speed bumps along the way, most notably the potential sale of the team before the current ownership group stepped in, but in just 16 short months, the club has rendered all that moot. On Thursday night, Sporting will add one more name to the list of soccer specific stadiums in Major League Soccer, a venue that some think will be the best yet.

“‘Finally’ is all I can say,” Harrington said. “I finally feel like I can call someplace home and be proud of what it is. Just looking at the other venues in the league, I haven’t seen anything that can really touch this. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

It is one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the United States and an architectural gem with an iconic roof that towers over the stands and playing field. It also has seating that brings fans within feet of the action.

It is the brainchild of club president Robb Heineman and the team’s principal owners, Cliff Illig and Neil Patterson, who spared no expense and shunned no detail to make Livestrong Sporting Park the kind of stadium that their players, coaches and fans can take immense pride in: a place to immerse oneself in soccer, and specifically, Major League Soccer.

The facility boasts three clubs, one specifically for the team’s members and lowest-paying ticket holders. The locker rooms have the feel of a luxury resort, giving Sporting every advantage possible before they take the pitch. The owners box, the so-called Victory Suite, may be the most striking feature of the lot, an enormous, two-story luxury box jutting out above the corner flag and perched over the playing field.

It’s almost enough to keep a grown man awake at night with anticipation.

“I haven’t been sleeping a whole lot,” Heineman said. “I think today is going to roll into tomorrow and tomorrow into Thursday so before you know it, it’s going to be here. But we’ve waited seven years so another 48 hours won’t kill us.”

But it won’t make waiting any easier, either. After 15 years and 10 straight road games to start this season, Kansas City are ready for the next step in their history. And so is the facility they’ve been waiting on since Day 1.

“Look at it,” goalkeeper Eric Kronberg said. “It’s amazing. We’re all just so happy to be at our own place now. That’s all I can really say.”

And, really, that’s all he needs to.