Children’s Mercy Park – Sporting KC
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There’s No Place Like Home
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), 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.
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.
Are you craving for some KC barbecue? 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 hike 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). If you make it to a game during the Summer, order the Lemon Ginger Radler, a seasonal offering from Boulevard that is both delicious and refreshing, and $.50 of every purchase will be donated to the Sporting KC charity.
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 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 Sporting 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 Sporting 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 foot 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 fans are passionate, loyal, and intelligent soccer fans. They come in droves to Sporting Park, nearly every one in a Sporting blue jersey, tee or scarf. They know the chants (“I believe that we will win” and “Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!”) 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 Sporting 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.
Sporting 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, Sporting Park has a perfect guest experience for any fan.
Parking is free. Yes, you heard that right-free. What kind of utopia is this? Of course, you kinda get what you pay for, as late arrivals could have quite a hike from the public lot. Although every game sells out, the team sells standing room only tickets the week prior to a game for a discount. Tickets are also available on the secondary ticket market. Once inside the stadium, the concourse is wide and totally not claustrophobic.
There are plenty of restrooms. I never saw a wait, and most fans are so enthralled with the game that concession lines only exist during halftime.
Return on Investment 5
Depending on the opponent and seating section, tickets will be between $30-$50. Tickets to the Coors Light 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. 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 an 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, 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.
After the game, the member’s club is open to everyone at the game, and following a victory everyone does meet there. The club has its own liquor license, meaning it can stay open until 2:00 AM if the fans want to stay.
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 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 it in Kansas City or the MLS.
Food and Drink Recommendations
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