When I stepped into the Kansas City Wizards’ new stadium, I tried my best to take it all in.
The concrete rumbling beneath my feet as trucks and cranes lumbered on what will soon be the playing surface.
The clatter of tools as workers drilled and hammered and welded around me.
The sparks flying as two workers installed a railing for the freight elevator.
The feel of sticky tar on the roof as I scurried to keep up with my tour guide who was trying to get me to the highest peak of the stadium. (It was worth the gunk on my Nike’s to see the stage, the curve of the roof, the pillars for the scoreboard, the tiny ants below from that vantage point.)
The smell of dirt and plastic and tar filled my nose -- not usually a pleasant mix, but trust me, given the right context it’s intoxicating.
The whipping wind wreaking havoc on the temporary walls protecting the unfinished suites.
The only word I can think of to sum the entire experience up? Impressive.
The stadium was buzzing with activity as 250 or so workers tucked into every single nook and cranny of the building -- from the roof to the oval-shaped, state-of-the-art home locker room below pitch level -- went about their job of building the future for Kansas City and it’s professional soccer team.See The Star’s photo gallery of the new Wizards stadium.
I’m pretty sure that a lot of details I could’ve gleaned on this tour fell on deaf ears. At every new detail, I’d mutter “Uh-huh” while my mind was going “Holy Crap!”
Here are a few details I gathered: It’s further along than you think it should be (they’re already putting in plumbing and sealing the loading dock), there’s a lot that still hasn’t been done (including the installation of a transformer that must be in place by Oct. 29), the trucks have to be off the field by Jan. 1 so work can begin on the pitch and you’re going to hear the word “state of the art” a lot as this thing grows.**I’ll get more details when they are available, but “spared no expense” on the technical details came up during my tour.
Several people have already hailed this stadium as the first “Authentic American Soccer Stadium.” Last week, I asked Wizards president Robb Heineman to explain what “Authentic American Soccer Stadium” meant to him.
“(We want fans) to realize the passion of the game inside the stadium. I think that, what’s lost on other soccer specific stadiums in the United States (is that) they are outdoor event centers they happen to play soccer in.”
The focus, according to Heineman, will be on the game. Everything, from the steep terraces* to the roof was planned to keep the focus and the sound on the field, creating an “experience” that will help people “see and feel the beautiful game.”*Not as steep as you’d think thanks to the gradual grade of the concrete. Plus, since the buffer between field and seats will be no greater than 10 feet, literally every person will be on top of the field.
Now, I’m not an expert on soccer stadiums, nor will I profess to be. I’ve not visited Red Bull Stadium or Rio Tinto. I’ve not studied the schematics for BMC Field or PPL Park. For that matter, I’ve never actually evenseen
a professional soccer game in a stadium that wasn’t Arrowhead or CommunityAmerica Ballpark.**I spent a decade living in the soccer hinterland of western Pennsylvania before moving to KC. Soccer is to Pittsburgh what vegetarians are to Kansas City.
Given my lack of expertise, I won’t even dream of comparing this stadium to anything else. I’ll leave the “my stadium is better than your stadium” talk to more qualified people. I don’t know if OnGoal’s dream of having the first “Authentic American Soccer Stadium” will be realized. Frankly, I don’t really care if it is or if it isn’t.
What I care about: The Wizards are building an impressive stadium that Kansas City should -- and I’m certain will -- be proud of. It’s also a stadium that should -- and I’m certain will -- improve the quality (and certainly the quantity) of soccer in this city.
Next time, when I’m not worrying about tripping over my bottom lip, I’ll try to get more details.If you’re interested in photos, here’s my full batch from the stadium tour.