It's pretty hard to believe -- especially if you've been out to The Legends in Wyandotte County sometime soon -- but it was exactly a year ago today that the Kansas City Wizards announced the plan to shift their stadium from Kansas City, Missouri, to Kansas City, Kansas.
The decision to abandon the Bannister Mall site in favor of the more economically viable location across the parking lot from Nebraska Furniture Mart was met with some fan hand-wringing and even some dissent.
That's pretty much all evaporated by now. The stadium is growing like a weed, fans are (mostly) beyond glee when they see it (or think about it) and even regular folks with no interest in soccer are talking about it.
The folks building it are pretty enthused too.
"We hope that it will be seen as one of the finest stadiums in the country," said OnGoal vice president of development David Ficklin. "As a design professional who's been involved in soccer stadiums all over the world, it will stack up as one of the finest on the continent."*He used to work for HOK, now called Populous, and has worked on multiple soccer-specific stadiums including Chivas Guadalajara's new stadium. The Wizards will play a home and home with Chivas at some point next year. Ficklin said they haven't scheduled the date for that game yet.
Not many sports franchises have suffered the sort of stadium woes the Wizards have. Arrowhead was too big to grow the sport, CommunityAmerica is too small. This stadium, Ficklin believes, will be just the thing that OnGoal needs to grow the game in this city.
"We've worked hard and put our heart and soul into creating and thinking about every single detail of the fan experience, the operational experience, the player experience," he said. "When we open, it's the best it can possibly be."
The progress on the stadium, to even the naked and untrained eye, is fantastic.
"Even though there's not a day we can cut out of the schedule, we are still ahead," Ficklin said. "We are blessed with some fantastic contractors and subcontractors and workers who have taken an immense amount of pride in building this stadium for their community."
You can view some pictures on the Wizards'Facebook page here
. (FYI: The placeholder name on the renderings in Ficklin's office says, simply: "WIZARDS STADIUM." He assured me that's strictly a placeholder.)
The team plans to have the stadium open and operational on June 1, 2011. They haven't announced an opening event yet, but they have let CONCACAF know they would love to host a Gold Cup triple-header. (When it comes to events like the Gold Cup, or the NCAA College Cup, or a U.S. men's or women's team game, Ficklin says the team has worked diligently to make sure that they make the stadium fit each event's specific requirements. They are pressing very hard for an MLS All-Star Game or MLS Cup final as well.)
Pretty exciting stuff, huh?On a personal note, this day was the first of a series of days that crystalized the formation of this blog. Knowing that there was a soccer-specific stadium going up was the tipping point for getting this blog off the ground.