Stadium Experiences: Livestrong Sporting Park raising the bar for MLS and the football specific stadiums around the world


When Major League Soccer was founded in 1996, many skeptics doubted its future arguing that there was no room for professional soccer in the United States.

At that time, many of these new teams played in giant NFL stadiums as a result the atmosphere at games suffered because even with a decent crowd of 20,000, there were always at least 50,000 empty seats.

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Beginning with Crew Stadium’s opening in 1999, there has been a steady emphasis from the league in having teams play in their own stadiums specifically designed for soccer. Most of the stadiums following Crew Stadium have been very good additions. This includes places like Chicago’s Toyota Park, Los Angeles’ Home Depot Center, and Colorado’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

The latest generation of MLS stadiums over the past three years has raised the bar to a completely different level and has produced some of the nicest medium/small sized stadiums in the world. This list would include New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena, Philadelphia’s PPL Park, Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium, and of course, Kansas City’s Livestrong Sporting Park.

Livestrong Sporting Park may in fact be the nicest sub-20,000 stadium in the world. This was most evident in the fantastic atmosphere on display in the United States national team’s recent win over Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier. The Americans needed a result to advance and, despite conceding the first goal, the crowd in Kansas City was going to do everything they could to ensure the American team had a huge advantage playing at home.

Opened in 2011 in the middle of the MLS season, Livestrong Sporting Park was built for a cost of $200 million. The stadium, not including standing room, for soccer matches holds 18,467 spectators and every single seat offers a great view of the entire field.

There is simply not a stadium that offers a more intimate view of the game. In addition, the seats are covered with a roof which both protects against bad weather and can add significant volume to the crowd noise. During the recent World Cup qualifier, US players told media that it seemed as if the crowd was three times as large as it actually was.

Livestrong Sporting Park clearly shows how a stadium can revitalize an entire organization. Formerly known as the Kanas City Wizards and playing at the 80,000 capacity Arrowhead Stadium, the organization was one of the most underachieving teams in MLS in terms of support. Crowds of 5,000 were typical at Arrowhead and they were a nonfactor in the Kansas City media.

The move to Livestrong Sporting Park however launched a complete revitalization of the team. Their games now fill the stadium and the atmosphere is among the best in the league. Their support continues to grow and there is already talk of expansion to Livestrong Sporting Park in the years ahead.

Last year’s incredible World Cup qualifying success at Livestrong almost makes it a certainty that it will also host a World Cup qualifier next year in the final Hexagonal round. Perhaps, they may even get a chance to host the US-Mexico game which has been played in Columbus the past three cycles.

Being a new stadium, Livestrong Sporting Park does not have the history that many venues in Europe or South America have but that should change quickly as important events will be coming in the near future. Sporting will be in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League and could yet host the MLS Cup this year.

The US national team and women’s national team will move important games there as they know it will offer a huge home-field advantage.

The future is indeed unwritten but so far Livestrong is all you could ever hope for in terms of stadium success.

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Posted in: Stadium Experiences, USA

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