Oh my, Children’s Mercy Park is a tremendous stadium. Located just off the figurative yellow brick road of Kansas (Interstate 70), in an immense shopping, restaurant and entertainment district known as Village West, the home pitch of the Sporting KC MLS team is one of the best venues to watch a sporting event of any kind.
Built in 2011 specifically for Sporting KC (previously the KC Wizards), Children’s Mercy Park is the first true home for the club after previous years spent at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City Chiefs) and CommunityAmerica Ballpark (Kansas City T-Bones). Approaching from the parking lot, the exterior of the stadium is gorgeous to view, all light blue glass and brick to match the colors of the team’s kits. A large banner proclaims the stadium “The Soccer Capital of America,” and it’s hard to argue with the boast. Once inside, the venue offers plenty of fan friendly amenities, so many that we will never be able to mention them all.
In 2013, Children’s Mercy Park hosted the MLS All Star Game, a match for the US Men’s National Team, and the MLS Cup (which Sporting KC won), and is the only park to have ever hosted all three prestigious events in the same season.
Here in 2015, Sporting KC is once again the US Open Champs (having previously won the title in 2004 and 2012). They made the playoffs for the fifth straight season. The team and stadium are so beloved by locals that they’re working on a 70 game sellout streak, a number sure to rise in the 2016 campaign. The club is a model of continuity and success for a professional sports team, is engaged with their fans likely more than any other team in major sports, and boast one of the best designed stadiums. What’s their secret?
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Like the traditional stadium foods of hot dogs, nachos and pizza? Try The Grill or the Sporting Fare concession stands. Prices are what you would expect at a professional stadium, but are not so high that you'll grumble about it.
Jonesing for some KC BBQ? Run, don't walk, over to The Smokehouse, where smoked beef, pork or turkey can be layered on top of a sandwich ($10.50), baked potato ($10) or nachos ($9.75).
You can't go wrong with either of those options, but my recommendation is that you get on over to Grinders, a legendary KC restaurant that slings Philly style sandwiches and pizzas so loaded with toppings you'll want to sub into the game for the second half in order to work off the calories from just a couple bites.
The local flavor extends to the beverages as well, and Kansas City's own brewery, Boulevard, is an omnipresent icon at the stadium. Fans can get a 20 oz Boulevard for the same price as a domestic ($9.50). In 2013, following the MLS Cup Championship, Boulevard released a Championship Ale with the Sporting logo. For the 2015 season, Boulevard brewed a special beer, Sporting Saison, that is only sold on tap at Children's Mercy Park.
As a new addition, there is a large hut selling Bud Light CranAppleRazzLimeMango- BRR-AHH-ADE- Ritas, which I can't imagine anyone actually wants. If you're at a Sporting game, and you want to get one of these for novelty reasons, or, like, you lost a bet or something, there won't be any line. Go nuts.
Game production from the stadium crew is amazing. Fireworks blast during the awesome hype video played before the team takes the pitch. Fans scream as starters are announced. Women swoon over local product, Matt Besler, team captain and a starter for the US 2014 World Cup team. The chants from The Cauldron (more on them later) begin well before gameplay, and continue through the 90 minutes of on-field action.
The concourse goes around the top of the seats, so everyone can peek in on the action if they are waiting for their beer to pour, or to and from the restrooms. Every seat provides a total view of the grass. Most seats are shaded from the elements by a sun-shade that rings the stadium, keeping showers and sun mostly out while also keeping the chants and other noise in. When the home team scores, fireworks boom again and confetti rains from the rafters. A banner in the north end zone isn't kidding when it states "Welcome to The Blue Hell." The team has managed several long home winning streaks since the opening of Children's Mercy Park.
The Village West area of Kansas City, Kansas was nothing but rolling prairie 15 years ago, but nowadays is home to the Kansas Speedway, Children's Mercy Park, CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Legends Shopping Outlets, a Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela's, and more restaurants and other stores than you could visit in a month. Fans coming to Children's Mercy Park could easily make a weekend out of the trip, even if just traveling from the suburbs of the metro area. Kids would love spending a night at Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel with an indoor water park. Parents could unwind at the new Hollywood Casino, built in the shadow of the Kansas Speedway and just a corner kick from Children's Mercy Park.
Chateau Avalon is a romantic getaway that offers themed rooms for the couple who isn't content with the average hotel room. Schlitterbahn Waterpark is just across the interstate, and as of 2014 offers the world's tallest water slide, the 169' tall Verruckt. Village West is just 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City, 20 minutes from Kansas City international Airport, and not much farther to the major Kansas-side suburbs of Overland Park and Olathe. Sporting KC is the only major league sports team in Kansas (the Royals and Chiefs are on the Missouri side of the state line).
Sporting KC fans are passionate, loyal, and intelligent soccer fans. They come in droves to Children's Mercy Park, nearly everyone in a Sporting blue jersey, tee or scarf. They know the chants ("I believe that we will win" and "Shots! Shots!ShotsShotsShotsShots!") and they know the players.
The most diehard Sporting fans are known as The Cauldron, a member's only group that has followed the team since they were known as the Wizards (thus the moniker). The Cauldron has a special section of seats on the north end of Children's Mercy Park. I wouldn't say this section of the stadium is not for children, but beer and profanity could very well spill out of a member's mouth at any moment. Anyone can buy an annual membership for $20, which is a steal considering you are granted access to a member's only ticket purchasing site, where ticket prices are strictly controlled (scalping will get you booted from the club). The pricing is well below market value, and a pair to one game will more than cover the cost of the membership. Also, the members have free beer outside the stadium before games, and during games Member's Stand tickets get access to a private bar area and restrooms (more on that below).
Children's Mercy Park has several options for the less raucous crowd. The west side of the stadium is more family friendly, although most seats are for season ticket holders. Above those seats are several luxury boxes, mostly owned by local companies, plus the Victory Suite in the corner, a large private area reserved each game for the family and friends of one lucky KC kid. Around the concourse are several outdoor dining tables, which can be reserved and purchased by groups. These seats are all-you-can-eat and feature a private wait staff. For the true glutton, the Coors Light corner is all-you-can-eat AND drink. Whatever your preference, Children's Mercy Park has a perfect guest experience for any fan.
There are plenty of restrooms and most fans are so enthralled with the game that concession lines only exist during halftime.
Depending on the opponent and seating section, tickets will be between $30-$50. Tickets to the Coors LIght all-you-can-eat corner are around $75. Not cheap, but factor in the free parking and the experience and it's quite a value. There's no need to pay more for "better" seats; every seat is a winner.
That being said, it's worth paying a premium for Cauldron tickets (or, use your membership to get cheap tickets). If you are able to find a pair, you will have access to a member's club prior to and during the game. Calling it a member's club makes it sound like the loyalty lounge at the Atlanta airport, but it's far from that. The Member's Club is arguably the best sports bar in KC. Tons of TVs and seats, great music (they have a real DJ performing after games), a private bar and Grinder's restaurant, special merchandise store, private restrooms, plus Boulevard beer specials prior to kickoff. If the boys win, those same drink specials are back on after the game. They open the Member's Club up for watch parties when the team is away, and for various other special events. Also, they've been known to open the club early on game day to allow people to get there early and watch the Kansas City Royals in the playoffs.
There are many extras that make this stadium special. There are cell phone charging stations at every corner on the concourse. Kids can play test their soccer skills at one of several game stations outside the main entrance. In addition to regular merchandise, the club has teamed up with a local brand and is now selling its own line of spirit wear (many items and sizes sold out within the first week).
The team is VERY active on social media, routinely doing online contests for free tickets and merchandise. Almost weekly a player is doing an autograph session somewhere in town. If you'd like to watch Sporting on the road, get in touch with the facebook group and you will get free tickets to the sit in the away team section at the other team's stadium. The club management clearly values maintaining long term fan loyalty over short term costs. It's paying off for them.
The most unique extras at Children's Mercy Park are available to those fans with smart phones. First off, wifi is fast and free, with no home screen to click through like you would expect to see. Smart fans will download the Sporting Club Uphoria app, a mobile application that has much more than team schedules and ticket sales. Instant replays (like, within 60 seconds) are available on the app, as well as live gameplay video for that long walk to the restroom. Drunk fan bothering the kids? Use the app to fill out a comment card and expect a quick response. The more you visit Children's Mercy Park, and more the app gets to know you. After just one visit, the app knew I liked beer and suggested that I try the summer seasonal I mentioned previously. The app also allows for sponsor promotions, like the local grocery store that gave away boxes of Klondike bars to fans who simply clicked "accept" within the app. Some fans may get seat upgrades. After attending a game, I filled out a comment card, and out of pure luck won tickets to another upcoming game.
If Children's Mercy Park is the future of live sports, count on me to spend more time out of the house. Being home is great, but there's no place like Children's Mercy Park.
For the first twelve years of their existence, the Kansas City MLS franchise spent their time on a pitch reserved for the NFL's Chiefs in the cavernous Arrowhead Stadium. The next three years were spent sharing land with the lower minor league baseball T-Bones in a playing field more resembling a triangle than a rectangle. Now, however, all of that has been forgotten, except for a championship in 2000.
After being known as the Wiz the first year before adding a vowel and three consonants to become the Wizards in 1997, the team enters the 2011 season as Sporting Kansas City and have brought with them new team colors, a new identity and new life. Add to these changes the newest venue in Major League Soccer, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, and you have an opportunity to build success through a remarkable game experience.
Oh my, Sporting Park is a tremendous stadium. Located just off the figurative yellow brick road of Kansas (Interstate 70), in an immense shopping, restaurant and entertainment district known as Village West, the home pitch of the Sporting KC MLS team is one of the best venues to watch a sporting event of any kind.
Built in 2011 specifically for Sporting KC (previously the KC Wizards), Sporting Park is the first true home for the club after previous years spent at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City Chiefs) and CommunityAmerica Ballpark (Kansas City T-Bones). Approaching from the parking lot, the exterior of the stadium is gorgeous to view, all light blue glass and brick to match the colors of the team’s kits. A large banner proclaims the stadium “The Soccer Capital of America”, and it’s hard to argue with the boast.
In 2013, Sporting Park hosted the MLS All Star Game, a match for the US Men’s National Team, and the MLS Cup (which Sporting KC won), and is the only park to have ever hosted all three prestigious events in the same season.
Once inside, the venue offers plenty of fan-friendly amenities, so many that we will never be able to mention them all. This team and stadium are so beloved by locals that they are adding to an already amazing 50 straight games sell-out streak. As long as the quality of team play and fan experience at Sporting Park remain consistent, that streak will remain ongoing for years.
This was CONCACAF Champions League, known to be a smaller draw than a league match but still a good crowd and great atmosphere. Caution: There were signs not to park at certain lots for stores and hotels and I heard somewhere that this is enforced so a longer walk might be worth it if needed. One secret is that a Metro bus route, 101 State Ave Connex, serves the stadium on weeknights only (not weekends after 6) and there is a well-lit bus stop next to the stadium.
1843 Village W Pkwy
Kansas City, KS 66109
777 Hollywood Casino Blvd
Kansas City, KS 66111