KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Wizards are no more – in name at least.
On a blustery, rain-swept Wednesday evening in downtown Kansas City, club president Robb Heineman announced the team has officially changed its name to Sporting Kansas City, ending months of speculation and opening a new chapter in the organization’s history.
“At the end of the day, I think it was about us doing the best we could to make a second chance at a first impression,” Heineman said. “We’ve spent a lot of time trying to get our ducks in a row since 2006 when we acquired the team. With the stadium opening next year and the season being over and going through a new brand cycle, now was the time to do it.”
Along with ditching the Wizards name, which had been in use in some form since the team’s opening season in 1996, Kansas City also introduced its new crest, colors – indigo and “Sporting” blue – and kit while promoting a vision for the club’s future that it hopes will combine first-class players and facilities with a premium on fan involvement.
[inline_node:323563]Though rumors of the announcement had been swirling for months, Heineman said the idea of rebranding was on the table when OnGoal purchased the team from the Hunt family in 2006 and began in earnest 18 months ago, leading to a change in moniker to fit the club’s ambitions.
“Keeping the status quo, quite honestly, was never going to be an option,” Heineman said. “This is all about a new start. It’s a new name, a new stadium, a new time.”
Part of that fresh start appears to include Kansas City expanding its reach into other sports – namely rugby and lacrosse, although Heineman said no concrete discussions had taken place regarding the latter.
He also emphasized the shift of the team’s supporters from fans to what he called “members,” the details of which still remain a little bit murky but should begin to clear up in the coming months as the team continues to roll out additional changes.
In the process of transitioning from old to new, Sporting also trotted out Mexican international and Designated Player Omar Bravo, who modeled the team’s new away jersey in his first official appearance with the team.
But Bravo’s presence and the promise of things to come didn’t mean the announcement was met with all smiles. Though many fans applauded the change, a smattering of boos could still be heard following the announcement and opinions in the crowd of around one thousand remained decidedly mixed.
That’s just fine with Heineman, who said acceptance would come with winning and the reinforcement of the long-term identity behind becoming a sporting club in the team's dealings with the community.
“I realize that this is going to be a collective partnership that we are going to have to build around this name – near, medium and long,” he said. “What Sporting means to us is the DNA, the ethos of this organization. It’s our commitment that we are going to do everything we can to push the edge of the envelope in the way that we interact with our members.”
According to Heineman, that idea harks back to the club’s original owner, Lamar Hunt, whose legacy as a forward thinker was characterized by his involvement in the birth and growth of Major League Soccer and development of the sport in Kansas City.
“We want to be different,” Heineman said. “We want to be innovative. We want to be something that everybody in soccer says, ‘Oh my God.’ That’s what this is all about. We have an opportunity to take sports as a business model and turn it on its head and see what happens.”
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