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  • Alex Mailes

Children’s Mercy Park – Sporting KC


Photos by Alex Mailes and Cory Sims, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Children’s Mercy Park 1 Sporting Way Kansas City, KS 66111

Sporting KC website

Sporting Park website


Year Opened: 2011

Capacity: 18,467

 

There’s No Place Like Home

Children’s Mercy Park is the current home of the Sporting KC Football Club in Kansas City, Kansas. The stadium was originally constructed in 2011 as the new home for Sporting KC, then known as the Kansas City Wizards. In its relatively short tenure, Children’s Mercy Park has garnered a reputation for being one of the best arenas in the MLS. They are consistently in the top ten for yearly attendance and have won numerous awards including “Venue of the Year” and “Community Award” in 2012 from The Stadium Business Awards and was a top 4 finalist for “Sports Facility of the Year” from the 2012 Sports Business Awards. Children’s Mercy Park has also been the only stadium to host the MLS All-Star Game, the United States Men’s National Soccer Team, and the MLS cup all in the same year.

Sporting KC has been the arena’s only occupants, having played in Community America Ballpark from 2008-2011, and Arrowhead Stadium from 1996-2007. They competed in the Western Conference in the MLS since 2015, after having previously played in the Eastern Conference for ten years. They began as a charter team in 1996, the league’s inaugural year, known then as the Kansas City Wizards. The Wizards rebranded to Sporting KC in 2011, coinciding with the move to their new arena.

Children’s Mercy Park has a reputation as one of the best in the MLS and it’s not hard to see why. Sporting KC makes a concerted effort to provide an experience that many American soccer teams can’t match and is certainly worth the visit.

Food & Beverage 4

Children’s Mercy Park has recently rolled out a few noteworthy concessions this past year, each with its own unique theme. The most popular seemed to be Brat and Brau, a German-styled booth that serves frankfurters ($6.50), giant pretzels ($7.50), and their specialty Brat-chos ($10), nachos topped with sliced bratwurst, beer cheese, sauerkraut, and onions. Another fan favorite was Kickin’ Chickin, which serves fried chicken sandwiches and tenders along with curly fries. Sporting KC has also introduced international cuisine at World’s Kitchen, where you can get falafel bowls, chicken and wraps all for around $10.

If you are looking for some local flavor, you can visit American Royal to get some pulled pork and brisket. If you want something that is quick and easy, BRGR has all the typical stadium fare like hamburgers, nachos, and hotdogs all for around $5.

Sporting KC has something for everyone and at prices that are typical of professional sports at this level. There are a few unique venues, like Brat and Brau and World Kitchen that provide specialty items for more adventurous patrons, and if you just want a hotdog BRGR has you covered.

Atmosphere 4

Children’s Mercy Park finished construction in 2011 and was modeled after European stadiums, built in a more rectangular shape with a sizeable overhang. The concession stands are peppered around the main concourse lining the edge of the inner seating bowls and are easily accessed. The scoreboard is located on the western side of the stadium directly above the goal. There are fan entrances on all four sides of the arena, with general admission allowed in the Hollywood Casino and Mazuma gates which are on the south and north sides of the park respectively. The premium entrances are on the western and eastern sides.

Games begin with a firework show and a pregame video before the opening kickoff. There is a band in the lower eastern seating bowl. They usually play the Sporting KC fight song, which is a modified rendition of “Johnny Comes Marching Home”, that the fans love to chant. This keeps the game feeling loud and lively. There is an announcer that engages with the crowd when there is no action on the field, putting on trivia games and other challenges for fans. It’s a nice touch but doesn’t happen often enough.

There is usually some kind of half-time activity, like a lightshow or a performance from the announcer, but it’s usually limited to a few minutes. Post season games will usually put on a bigger show like talented frisbee-catching dogs or live music.

Sporting KC does a great job getting fans excited about the game, from the opening fireworks to the final seconds there is usually something exciting going on that the fans are into. Its reputation as one of the finer MLS experiences is certainly earned.

Neighborhood 3

Children’s Mercy Park is in Kansas City, Kansas less than 1 mile off I-435. It sits near The Legends shopping district, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and a Cabela’s. There are a few restaurants located nearby, including Famous Dave’s Barbeque, Denny’s Bar and Grill, and several major chains.

For those looking for some more entertainment after the game, the stadium is directly across from the Kansas Speedway and the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park. Plenty of lodging options are available within 2 miles of the stadium with the most economical options being the Country Inn and Homewood Suites.

The park’s location has plenty of shopping options, cheap lodging, and a few other big attractions, but is lacking in unique local restaurants. Overall, if you want something to do after the game, there are options, but you’ll have to drive for better food.

Fans 4

Sporting KC averages about 19,000 fans per game, making them one of the most popular organizations in the MLS. The stadium itself only has the capacity to seat 18,500, so the games always feel packed and lively. Many patrons arrived several hours early to wait outside the main gates before kick-off showing a level of dedication not seen with many other MLS teams.

The spectators are always engaged on the sidelines, either chanting along with the band or booing the refs after a questionable call, and many stayed for the aftergame party in the clubhouse. The fans actively follow the team and players and aren’t just there for something to do.

Access 4

The stadium is less than 1 mile from the nearest I-435 exit and is less than a 30-minute drive from the Kansas City International Airport. Public Transportation is available and will take you directly to the arena.

Return on Investment 4

General admission costs varied depending on the seating bowl, but prices ranged from $30-$60 from SeatGeek with season passes going from $460-$700. This is about average cost for the MLS and the experience is above that of a typical league game.

Extras 2

Sporting KC doesn’t offer much in terms of nightly promotions, kids contests or giveaways, but they do have nightly afterparties, fireworks and lightshows. The extras won’t bring you to the game, but they are nice to have.

Final Thoughts

Children’s Mercy Park earns its reputation as a top MLS organization. They offer plenty of unique concession options at average prices and provide a gameday experience that is a cut above most other American soccer teams. Children’s Mercy Park stands as one of the best and it is certainly worth a visit for any soccer fan.


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