I was recently in Kansas City for some family events and had the opportunity to walk over to Sporting Park and watch Sporting Kansas City host the Seattle Sounders. While the match was exciting and fun to watch, I was more interested in the stadium and how it compares to Dick's Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids.
Sporting Park is a soccer specific stadium that was opened on June 9, 2011. It is the third home for Sporting Kansas City/Kansas City Wizards. It is located in the Village West development near the Kansas Speedway and CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas, 16 miles west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It seats just over 18,000 for soccer but they squeezed in more than 21,000 when I was there for the Sounders match.
In comparison, Dick's Sporting Goods Park was completed in 2007 and has a capacity of just more than 18,000. It is only 9.7 miles from downtown Denver.
Surrounding Sporting Park
As previously mentioned, Sporting Park is in the Village West development on the west-side of Kansas City, Kansas. Included in this area are the Kansas Speedway, CommunityAmerica Ballpark where the independent baseball team Kansas City T-bones play, the Legends Outlet Mall, and numerous restaurants and hotels. It is a little distance off of Interstates 70 and 435.
There is a lot surrounding Sporting Park and my hotel was just one block from the stadium, that made it real easy to get to the match. There were a lot of people who traveled in and stayed at one of the surrounding hotels, it is quite convenient.
Compare this to Dick's Sporting Goods Park, there isn’t anything within walking distance of the stadium. I know there was a plan to develop around Dick's when it was built, but that hasn’t come to fruition. The closest amenities are located at the Northfield Stapleton Development, about a five to ten minute drive away.
Sprint Plaza is buzzingThe atmosphere before the match at Sporting Park is quite similar to Dick's. They have a street soccer area and a shooting area. They also have a futsal field set up for the bigger kids. This is all located on the Sprint Plaza on the west side of the stadium. The cool thing for the kids is that when you sign the permission slip, unlike the Rapids, they give you a Sporting KC shirt (sponsored by Sprint). There were bands, street performers and people milling around, a great social atmosphere as you are preparing for the match.
Within the stadium, it is buzzing already because about an hour before the match the Cauldron is almost filled up as well as the supporters area in the south stands. This creates a lot of noise and sound as people are arriving for the match.
The lineups that were presented to fans at Sporting Park were more professional than at Dick's. At Sporting Park, the lineups were full color on glossy paper. A lot better than black and white print on colored paper that is passed out at Dick's.
Warm Ups and Game
As the time got closer to kick-off, the music was playing and it was quite loud. I think it even got louder after the national anthem, I couldn't even hear my son standing next to me. I'm sure it is set higher than Dick's, but the roof that covers all the stands at Sporting Park helps keep the sound within the stadium. Since Dick's is open on the ends, the sound escapes. This helps create a true home field advantage. I think the fireworks on the field also helped with the loud atmosphere.
The fans are really into the match at Sporting Park. The KC Cauldron and South Stand SC really get the crowd going. I sat behind part of the Cauldron and fans in the sections surrounding them all joined in on the chants and songs. It really was a true soccer atmosphere. I felt energized by the crowd and I am sure it helped Sporting KC. These areas are made up of several different supporters groups who all come together to support Sporting KC.
This is why I like it when Centennial 38 sit in the south stands, they get the fans surrounding their section into the match. This also happens with the Centennial 38 supporters in Section 108. They get supporters in 107 and 109 to join in the chants and corners.
I just have to say, Sporting KC is an impressive place to watch a soccer match. As of now, Dick's Sporting Goods Park can't match it. They only time I have seen Dick's this lively, and I think it surpassed Sporting Park, was for the U.S. Men's National Team at the snowclasico.
Food and Beverage
Sporting Park does have a few of the standards, hot dogs and fried foods. They have more of a selection of other types of foods that might appeal to a wider audience. For example, they had a cart for street tacos, a big smoker for some KC barbecue, and in one of the concession stands I had a brisket grilled cheese sandwich. Not too bad.
Contrast that to Dick's where they serve pizza, hot dogs, nachos, philly cheesesteaks, and anything else fried.
For beverages, the two stadiums are pretty equal. There is a good selection of micro or craft beers. At Sporting Park, Boulevard is the predominant beer around while Dick's has Odell's. Sporting had Pepsi products while Dick's has Coke selections.
After going to a match at Sporting Park, Dick's has a long way to go to becoming a fortress. The Colorado Rapids have improved the experience this year over last, but still need to do some little things to improve the experience for the fan. The Rapids should get a sponsor, or two, and spend a little more on the lineup cards handed to fans. Also provide t-shirts for kids taking part in the pre-game activities along Burgundy Boulevard, it can only help your brand within the community when they start wearing them around town. Also the contractor they have should improve the food selections, provide some more choices.
But this isn't all on the Colorado Rapids. It also takes all of us as supporters to make Dick's Sporting Goods Park a fortress. As supporters or fans we need to support the team through the good times and the bad. Supporting them when they are winning is easy, but in tough times like this year, people should still be coming out. You support the badge no matter if you disagree with who is managing the team or who is in the team’s front office.
I keep hearing excuses about Dick's being too far or it is difficult to get to. I think Sporting Park has proved that excuse wrong. They have people traveling a lot further in Kansas City than it takes for many in the Denver area to get to Dick's. If you need to take public transportation, there are options. The supporters groups have buses from downtown, take public transportation downtown and catch one of the supporters buses.
With the population in eastern Colorado, Dick's Sporting Goods Park should be sold out every match regardless if there is a soccer tournament is in town or if there are fireworks after the match.
Sporting Park is a fortress. Let’s stop the excuses and let us help make Dick's Sporting Goods Park the fortress it deserves to be.What do you think? Have you been to Sporting Park? Have you been to a MLS match in another stadium. How do you think it compares to Dick's?