I still think that Wizards executive vice president Greg Cotton’s blathering about the ‘experiential’ nature of soccer and the useful proximity of a shopping center are not the kind of thing that actually promotes the league well. Still, the CommunityAmerica Ballpark should facilitate a better atmosphere than playing in a giant, empty NFL stadium, and I’ll stop by next season to see if the Cauldron can live up to their promise to make the place rock.
More importantly, though, the Wizards plans for a new stadium are far more promising than I realised. Indeed, in the intervening time, a critical redevelopment plan for the new stadium was approved by the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission and is expected to pass the City Council next month. It then needs approval by the Missouri General Assembly, which if achieved should allow ground to be broken next year and an opening date of 2010.
“This is an opportunity to change this area from a field of despair to a field of dreams, soccer dreams,” said Kansas City Councilwoman Cathy Jolly, whose district includes the Bannister Mall area.
In addition to the stadium, the first phase of the development includes a 250-room hotel, 12 tournament soccer fields, 609,000 square feet of retail space and 610,500 square feet of office space.
The entire 467-acre project, when fully developed over 10 years, is projected to cost an estimated $943 million and create more than 6,500 full- and part-time jobs, according to the developer.
Now, this project has to be seen as more-or-less the last chance for the Wizards to establish a permanent home there. Previous proposals have gone nowhere, and MLS is at the stage where a team moving from temporary digs to temporary digs would be a blight on the league.
But I must say all signs point to this project moving forward: there doesn’t seem to be much serious opposition, local politicians are in favour, the redevelopment would be good for the city, and OnGoal look like they know what they’re doing. Sure, there might be better potential MLS markets elsewhere in the U.S., but the league can expand to include them anyway. If Kansas City is viable permanently as it seems it could be, their fans of a dozen years shouldn’t suffer the way San Jose fans did by losing their franchise.
And that’s great news for MLS. Another team firmly established in the midwest speaks well for the league: even if they only draw 12-15,000 a game, so what if they’ve got a solid stadium, good support and a viable future?