Kansas City: From a Royals town….to a Chiefs town….to a….Sporting KC town?
I have not lived in Kansas City full-time for over 12 years now; however, I have a good feel for the mood and the atmosphere that surrounds professional sports in the city. To be fair, Kansas City is about as much of a college sports town as it is a pro sports town, as it hosts numerous NCAA tournament & Big 12 events and has three Division 1 programs within 3 hours of the city. This has been consistent for well over 50 years, long before professional sports ever arrived. The NCAA headquarters were even in Kansas City before moving to Indianapolis in the late 1990’s.
At one point, and it is hard to believe, but Kansas City was a Royals town. This was true during the 1970’s and lasted all the way into the late 1980’s/early 1990’s when Kansas City averaged over 30,000 fans per game in 1989. Every year the city would grow with excitement as the spring months approached to see what George Brett, Frank White, and the rest of the hometown grown Kansas City Royals could do. The Royals were once the model franchise in baseball and won 4 AL West crowns between 1976 and 1980, before finally breaking through and winning the 1985 World Series. The Chiefs, winners of Super Bowl IV, failed to even make the playoffs during that stretch.
Just as the Royals attendance was peaking in 1989, the Chiefs finally got fire under Marty Schottenheimer and “Marty Ball.” The Royals continued to fare well in attendance, but once the strike in 1994 came around, any momentum the Royals had was killed and it was suddenly a Chiefs only town. Sometimes it was impossible to get tickets. What season tickets were not sold were sold to only Jackson County Missouri taxpayers, which made others having to scalp and pay higher prices just to see a Chiefs home game. Despite seasons where the Chiefs won 13 games in the 1990s, they failed to win playoff games and by the year 2000, Martyball was done. Despite the departure of Marty, the city continued to remain a Chiefs town, despite attendance dropping off, which allowed basically anyone to get a ticket to games, something that continues to be the case today. Even ticket brokers have buy one get one free promotions just to get rid of tickets.
So, what type of professional sports town is Kansas City today? Is it a Chiefs town? Nope. Royals? Hardly, they barely register a blip on the radar for interest in Kansas City. Season ticket sales increased this year but my guess is that people are just buying those to secure tickets to the all-star game. I never thought I would ever say this, but thanks to Sporting KC, Kansas City is a professional soccer town. In 2011, the ownership group of Kansas City’s pro soccer team did two smart things. The first was a rebranding that reflects the names of some of the best soccer teams in Europe by adopting the name “Sporting KC.” The second was opening a brand new state of the art new soccer stadium (capacity 18,600).
With the team playing well, the interest in Sporting KC grew to the point where games were nearly starting to sell out. Sporting KC is expected to sell out every remaining home game of the 2012 season. I mean, really, soccer games in Kansas City are selling out? Yep, yes they are. I know what you may be thinking….and yes….it is only a stadium that seats 18,000 people, but keep in mind that the then Wizards only average 11,000 fans per game in 2010. I imagine now that if you increased capacity to 25,000 or possible 30,000 that Sporting KC would have no trouble selling those tickets.
I think if you follow me on twitter or know me personally that I am not a big fan of soccer. I really could give a crap about what goes on in Europe and I rarely attend games at Creighton University, my alma mater, which has a top 10 soccer program year in and year out. I hope they do well but I don’t let it irritate me off when they fail to win the National Championship (Creighton played in the final four this year). Heck, I cared more about Creighton making it to the round of 32 in the NCAA basketball tournament this year, even though their chances of winning the whole thing were significantly less than the soccer team winning the College Cup.
I played soccer as a kid, I hated it, and that hatred has carried over somewhat to adult life. I grew up on baseball, which was my sport. I played for as long as I could (until high school) when it was clear I was no sort of athlete that could continue to play in high school. I can only dream of the day that maybe, just maybe, Kansas City becomes a Royals town once again. Seeing something like professional soccer infiltrate Kansas City is very nauseating to me. It makes me very sick hearing about it. I had to do my best on Sunday to waive off request after request of going to a Sporting KC game when I was there. I tried watching 10 minutes on television, but I got bored and nearly fell asleep.
OK, enough about me hating on soccer. My point is simple. I grew up a baseball fan, and I never got to experience that feeling of Kansas City being a baseball town while I was growing up there. Even though I do not live there anymore, and do not plan in the future, I would like to feel that feeling, even if it is in Omaha, or somewhere else. Until then….we have Sporting KC……and if you excuse me….I need to go barf now.