Hearne: Sporting Kansas City to Add 7,000 Seats

Sporting-Kansas-City-Pictures-at-NightThink of it as a moral dilemma…

With sellouts mounting by the week, the sky’s the limit it would appear for Sporting Kansas City. The soccer club has become the model of what a successful professional sports franchise in Kansas City should look like.

Oh sure, recently dethroned AEG honcho Tim Leiweke‘s Comets indoor soccer club attained the veneer of success in the 1980s. But it was smoke and mirrors, accomplished by “papering” Kemper Arena with free promotional tickets then declaring the team a success. Local media played along and Leiweke pyramided the mirage into a seven-figure income and a powerful position in the entertainment industry.

Sporting’s ticket sales however are real.The team no longer has to fudge its attendance numbers to save face like it once did at Arrowhead and the ultra lame T-Bones park.

I attended Friday’s game at the stadium-formerly-known-as-Livestrong and not only was it sold out, the crowd was on fire practically the entire match. Despite that it was a dully-played affair with little to no excitement or scoring until the very end.

It’s a clean cut crowd, too.

Too clean cut by my measure, because if soccer’s to truly succeed here, the unwashed need to be part of the equation.

KC-chiefs-fansEver gone to a Chiefs game at Arrowhead?

I hesitate to use the word rabble,¬† but…

Back to Sporting…

With game after sold out game, the obvious question is, when will the team cash in and add more seats to 18,000 and change currently in play?

“In four years,” says Sporting main man Rob Heineman. “We can add 7,000 seats right over there – pop off the roof and add a second deck.”

But why not tomorrow to take advantage of the team’s popularity?

I wasn’t fast on my feet enough to ask Heineman that before he got away, but I think I know the answer.

Like most entertainment forms, soccer’s a supply/demand biz. And in part what helps propel Sporting’s sellouts is that they have a finite number of seats. As opposed to the 80,000 they were stuck with at Arrowhead.

The smaller venue encourages companies and fans to buy season tix because if they don’t, they might be not be available. And when people attend sold out games like Friday’s, it reinforces the wisdom of that decision.

PrekiHoFWhen I took people to Wizards games at Arrowhead, the first thing they noticed was how empty the place was, even with 20,000 people in the stands.

They felt like losers.

After all, 60,000 people had thought the better of going, why on earth were they there?

So while Sporting could probably sell several thousand more tickets a game now, why bother? In the entertainment biz, artists would far rather turn away a handful of people and capture the “buzz” of a sold out show, rather than risk having attendees stare at a sea of empty seats. Everybody loves a winner, right?

That’s how the entertainment game is played.

Leiweke mesmerized locals by putting butts in seats, but nobody bothered to report how few of those were paid butts. Thus the illusion of success was created, while sorely-needed financial success went missing.

Sporting knows better.

Right now the team is still on its honeymoon in a new stadium with thousands of fans who – allow me to suggest – are not to the manor born soccer fans. Plus the team is winning.

Why force seven thousand more seats into the equation now, only to risk watching the team go through a couple losing seasons and be stuck playing to half full stadiums?

It would be foolhardy.

At some point, Kansas City will likely evolve into a more soccer sophisticated town and – like the Chiefs – will draw enough fans to come close to filling a 25,000 or 30,000 seat stadium even in off years.

Why rush it?

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8 Responses to Hearne: Sporting Kansas City to Add 7,000 Seats

  1. smartman says:

    Never gonna happen. Adding seats only diminishes the exclusiveness of the experience SKC is delivering. To their credit they have done an excellent job…..so far. Parking is already a absolute clusterf√∑ck so 7000 seat means at least 3000 more cars.

    SKC’s got a great thing going. They can jack up some ticket prices and still offer deals that are family and poverty friendly

    The only way KC becomes more soccer friendly is if this team gets more champipnship friendly and doesn’t turn into the MLS version of the Buffalo Bills.

    Screw the unwashed. If they can buy AR-15’s, new 1 ton pickups with dual 4WD-ATV’s they can pay up for some second rate soccer.

    Also any substantial improvement in the performance of the Chiefs and/or Royals will suck some discretionary spend back to the east.

    I’m quite certain that there is a racial motive in all this. Lewis Diuguid will soon be telling us how the white man is intentionally excluding blacks from the SKC experience and how SKC needs to have some minority set asides for blacks to observe a sport more embraced by their African brothers and sisters than football and basketball which are just modern day forms of slavery designed to brainwash young black males about what success in America really means.

  2. Kyle Rohde says:

    Agreed on the parking – for a venue built right next to the Speedway, which does entry and exit unbelievably well with 4x the amount of people, it’s awful. The Sporting team needs to go talk to their Speedway peers and figure out how to fix it because it’s no better than Arrowhead, which is ridiculous.

  3. balbonis moleskine says:

    Put me squarely in the minority here, but I always liked Arrowhead for Wizards games.

    And I think the nearly $60 per seat ticket price plus service charges they are getting is outrageous.

    I recently went to a ACF Fiorentina game (currently 4th in Italian Serie A). My ticket was 27 Euro (35 dollars).

    The talent level is akin to a Serie 2 Italian team or a non-Premiership English side. The tickets are too high for a team who doesn’t bring on-field excitement in loads of goal scoring.

    • bill bonks says:

      $60 seats? Gee, we pay just $15 in the Cauldron, and have a better time than you folks in the west stand.

    • kcredsox says:

      $35 ticket as a Sporting game can get you pretty decent seats. Also, the parking may be bad, but its FREE.

  4. Mysterious J says:

    How could the crowd be too “clean” exactly?

    • the dude says:

      I guess that is code for not getting crap your pants, fall down drunk.

      • Mysterious J says:

        Typical throwaway comment by bad writers like Hearne…shows up for one game and is an expert on the makeup of the crowd.

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