Two-tone blue Sporting Kansas City scarves were ubiquitous in Sporting Park well before Saturday. Partisan scarves are soccer stadium staples around the world, after all.
By ZACHARY SPAIN
Special to The Star
But during Sporting KC’s penalty shootout MLS Cup win Saturday, the scarves were more than a fashion — or fandom — statement to be swung enthusiastically or stretched above heads.
Their purpose was also practical as they hung around the necks of nearly everyone in attendance. For many, one scarf wasn’t enough to stay warm.
That left the stadium’s apparel kiosks and stores nearly empty midway through the game. Jackets, gloves and blankets, too.
Sporting Style retail assistant Jalynda Cervantes said they were prepared, emptying the warehouse of any and every scarf they could find after a shipment of MLS Cup scarves scheduled to arrive from Chicago on Friday were lost in transit.
“Scarves are such a great soccer item,” Cervantes said. “We even sold some summer scarves in the dead of winter because people want them.”
With temperatures that barely reached 20 degrees and wind chills in the single digits, fans found warmth just about anywhere they could.
Walk into any restroom and there were dozens of people hovered around TVs there.
Still, standing-room only crowds more than five deep ringed the entire concourse donning ski caps, heavy coats and all styles of face coverings. Among the masses were those wearing heavy duty Carhartt-style wear and even Santa Claus suits and caps.
Obviously not the typical soccer attire.
John Pendry, 56, of Lawrence attended his first Sporting Kansas City game wearing the brown Dickies insulated overalls he duck hunted in Saturday morning.
“It’s a matter of survival (in the cold),” said Pendry, who attended with his 14-year-old soccer fanatic son, Ryan. “I came as I was. I wasn’t making a fashion statement.
“Soccer ain’t meant for this weather.”
And neither was ice cream.
Not surprisingly, hot chocolate was the order of choice at Kelsey Dighans’ concession kiosk, where Dippin Dots and frozen lemonade are typically the top sellers.
“We had workers running around all night to make sure we were stocked and ready to go,” Dighan said. “By the end of halftime it got a little crazy.”
Despite the cold, traffic at the Providence Medical Center first aid room was slower than during the Eastern Conference semifinal two weeks ago — a game that was previously the coldest at home in club history.
“I think people came more prepared this time,” Providence Medical Center nurse Randy Denson said.
Handling the conditions wasn’t the only distraction. With Missouri playing in the SEC football championship at the same time, Tigers fans were also connected to their phones, including Joey Burkholder of South Kansas City and Lenexa’s Jazmin Kile.
In Mizzou ski caps and black ski masks with eye and mouth openings, they arrived two hours before the game to claim a standing-room only spot above The Cauldron.
Then, after the MLS Cup ended, the plan was simple.
“I’ll be running across the street to find somewhere with the game on,” said Burkholder, 31.
But after 120 minutes and 10 rounds of penalty kicks, most Sporting fans decided to linger long after.
A championship was all the warmth they needed.