KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The 2013 MLS All-Star Game has been awarded to Livestrong Sporting Park – but when the July 31 game kicks off, will the stadium still carry that name?
Since the 2012 doping scandal that resulted in Lance Armstrong's lifetime ban from cycling, there have been calls from various quarters for Sporting Kansas City to strip the Livestrong name from their home ground.
And while club president Robb Heineman reiterated Sporting's commitment to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and its cancer-fighting operations, he stopped short of guaranteeing that the Livestrong name would remain attached to the park.
"We did our relationship with Livestrong for a very specific set of reasons," Heineman told reporters after Thursday's news conference to announce the All-Star Game host. "It was our belief in that mission, and while a lot of things around the situation are unfortunate, it's something we would think through carefully and closely before we did anything."
And no matter what the decision on the stadium's name, Heineman said, Sporting – who give a portion of each ticket sold to the foundation – will continue their charitable efforts.
“The thing that we're committed to is what Livestrong's about, and that's helping people afflicted with cancer," he said. "That's the piece of all this that, regardless of what happens, is what we'll remain committed to going forward."
One thing that's not likely to happen, though, is for Sporting – one of the few remaining teams without a kit sponsor – to donate that space to Livestrong or any other charity.
"I think for us, we want to set a different tone with that," Heineman said. "We did the charitable piece on the stadium. At some point in this whole thing, you need to make some money."
Heineman hopes to announce a sponsor before the season starts in March, but said the club will not rush just to make a deal. Sporting, who rebranded from the Wizards name before the 2011 season, have never had a shirt sponsor.
"Do we wish we had sold the shirt much faster than we have? Absolutely," he said. "But again, there are probably some opportunities out there that we could have chased in the past that, for several reasons, didn't fit where we wanted to go as an organization. We want to get it right, and we're close to getting it right."
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.