As music blared over the speaker system, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes walked across a makeshift stage, grabbed a microphone and then looked toward a roped-off crowd inside the Sprint Festival Plaza at Union Station.
Ready to celebrate the club’s 2013 MLS Cup championship from two days earlier, fans filled the room from wall-to-wall. Others waited outside after being told a capacity of 3,000 had already been reached.
It wasn’t the first celebration for Vermes — he was a member of the Kansas City Wizards’ championship team in 2000 — but this one felt a tad different.
“There’s more people at this event than I think there was in 2000 when I played in the Western Conference championship at Arrowhead,” Vermes quipped. “That says a lot.”
A night highlighted by Sporting KC goalie Jimmy Nielsen announcing his retirement first included a team celebration.
To a loud reception, Sporting KC players lined the stage and passed the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy down the line, some taking a moment to kiss the cup.
Nielsen, Vermes and Matt Besler took turns speaking to the fans.
“Back in (2006) when new ownership took over the team, there was a vision,” Vermes said. “And the vision was to someday build a stadium, put a competitive team on the field, bring important events to the city and possibly one day a MLS Cup.”
Seven years later, the club embraced a night reserved to honor its achievement.
“We have all of these milestones with our club, and I think this is another one,” Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said. “It’s a great night for the organization.”
The fans in attendance Monday were offered the opportunity to take their photos with the championship trophy. The line took more than an hour to cycle through all of the spectators.
“It’s been too long since we were able to celebrate a championship,” said Matt Williams, a 33-year-old resident of Shawnee. “We’re too good of a sports city not to be able to enjoy things like this. We need to do this more often.”
Besler addressed that in his speech to the crowd.
“Let’s do this again next year,” he said, before later adding, “I could get used to this.”