On Sporting KC and what's next for their gorgeous stadium
The Kansas City Star
For the last few years, Sporting Kansas City and the ownership group that defines it has been undefeated in the decisions that matter. They’ve rebranded, rebuilt, and remade what used to be an afterthought into the most successful part of our local professional sports scene.
Lance Armstrong, the shamed and quite jerky former cyclist, is becoming an enormous pain for most anyone who associated with him. His Livestrong foundation — which has done heart-warming work, let’s not forget that — took the surprising tact of striking first to sever the relationship with Sporting Kansas City.
Livestrong’s CFO — not its CEO, which seems strange for this — claimed Sporting owed the foundation money, a charge that Sporting president and CEO Robb Heineman denied in a conversation last night.
This blog post is mostly for two reasons. First, I’m seeing and hearing a lot of blowback from Sporting fans who think I’m taking joy in their team’s mistake. This is new ground for Sporting and its fans, who haven’t dealt with many setbacks. Sporting went into this deal with its eyes open, they’re adults, and the thing turned against them.
I think I’ve been pretty outspoken about Sporting’s successes, but more than that, would just say that this is part of a franchise growing its profile. Your victory celebrations are louder, but there is also more light on the losses. Sporting crossed that threshold long ago. This is part of being a big boy franchise.
The other thing I wanted to do here is spin forward a bit. The first day of the rest of Sporting’s life finds them with a gorgeous and nearly new stadium that now has room for a naming sponsor.
Heineman said the team would again consider a non-profit, and mentioned Cerner’s own First Hand Foundation as an obvious possibility.
I hope they do something like this. From the beginning, using the stadium’s name to promote a good cause — even if it wasn’t pure altruism with the draw of Armstrong’s help landing concerts and other events — was a terrific idea. Sure beats corporate marketing, anyway.
The fight against cancer is especially important and personal to Sporting’s ownership group, so they’ll be particularly open to like-minded causes. Heineman also said they’d try to maximize the local impact, because Sporting is a Kansas City team run by Kansas City people.
This is all terrific, of course, and with that in mind I hope that in addition to First Hand they consider Operation Breakthrough, Harvesters and — personal favorite — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City.
Sporting had a very cool and innovative idea. As it turned out, they picked the wrong organization. Here’s hoping they stick with the idea and pick a better partner.