After 15 seasons of playing in somebody else’s stadium, Sporting Kansas City has finally found a permanent home at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The $200 million facility is now ready for Sporting’s home opener on Thursday night against the Chicago Fire. The game will kick off at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2 (Knology cable channels 34, 234), ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com.
Workers were just putting the final touches on the stadium on Tuesday’s media day, but goalkeeper Eric Kronberg said the facility still doesn’t seem real.
“It’s starting to feel like that, but I don’t think it’s going to hit until the home opener,” Kronberg said.
Kronberg turned 28 on Tuesday and showed up to Livestrong Sporting Park after going to brunch with his girlfriend and relaxing.
With training in the afternoon and practice set for the evening, Kronberg said he wouldn’t be doing much celebrating.
“But what a great birthday present this is,” Kronberg said. “We’re all so thrilled to be here and excited to finally play at home.”
The club opened its MLS season with a 10-game road trip so that construction on Livestrong Sporting Park could be finished. Sporting struggled to generate much momentum, falling to 1-6-3 in MLS play and securing last place in the Eastern Conference.
Sporting did win two U.S. Open Cup games — one in Overland Park — but playing at home should give the team a boost as it tries to work its way back into the MLS postseason picture.
“Obviously, we’re almost a third of the way through the season, but this is our first home game, so we’re excited to play in front of our home fans,” Kronberg said.
Some of the prominent features of Livestrong Sporting Park include Wi-Fi access throughout the facility, intimate seating designed to eliminate poor sightlines and the largest HD video board for soccer in the United States.
There’s even a “boot room” where Sporting players can hang their game cleats on small pegs.
Players, coaches and staff members agree: Livestrong Sporting Park was built to be one of the top soccer-specific stadiums in North America.
The stadium could also develop into a strong tool for recruiting free agents and potential players against bigger markets like Los Angeles and New York.
“I think any player would be excited to play in a stadium like this,” Kronberg said. “And with the fans we have here, any player would be fortunate to come here.”
The club hopes a partnership with Cisco will help the stadium deliver a technological experience unrivaled in Major League Soccer. Two innovations were announced on Tuesday, with more to come in the near future.
“What we want Livestrong Sporting Park to be is truly a living lab for technologies,” Sporting CEO Robb Heineman said.
MLS commissioner Don Garber was in Detroit for the U.S. national team’s Gold Cup match against Canada on Tuesday, but he lauded Sporting’s savvy approach in a video statement.
Garber will attend Thursday’s home opener, which promises to be a fevered environment.
“When I’m yelling out there at my players, it’s loud with just me yelling,” Kronberg said. “I can only imagine 18,000 people yelling. It’s going to be awesome.”