Say goodbye to the Wizards. Well, sort of.
Robb Heineman, the CEO and managing partner of Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team, announced Wednesday that the team has officially changed its name to Sporting Kansas City.
“This continues the forward-thinking and innovation started by (former Chiefs owner Lamar) Hunt,” said Heineman, who spoke during a rally at the Power and Light District.
The decision to shed the Wizards moniker, which the team has used throughout its 15-year existence, has been in the works since OnGoal purchased the team from Hunt in 2005.
But with a new state-of-the-art stadium set to open in Wyandotte County next year, Heineman said the time is right for OnGoal to take its biggest step yet toward its overreaching goal of re-branding the team and making it a regional and national powerhouse in American soccer.
Aside from new colors – indigo and a shade of light blue called “Sporting Blue” – the team will also feature new uniforms and a new logo.
“Keeping the status quo, quite honestly, was never going to be an option,” Heineman said. “This is all about a new start. It’s a new name, a new stadium, a new time.”
The team’s new name is unique in America, but sporting clubs have been around in Europe, where soccer is king, for years. And on the surface, Kansas City appears to be the latest MLS team to promote a “Europeanization” of its squad.
In the past seven years alone, three MLS teams – F.C. Dallas, Toronto F.C. and the New York Red Bulls – have changed their team names to ones very similar to the kind you might see overseas. Real Salt Lake, an expansion team, chose a European name, too.
Heineman, however, disputes the notion that his organization is simply the next MLS team to jump on the European bandwagon.
“This, to us, is not European whatsoever,” Heineman said. “This is all about our connection to the community and us trying to be innovative in what we’re trying to do.
“(It’s not) a ripoff,” Heineman said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth we’re not just calling ourselves Real Salt lake or F.C. Dallas. We’re going to go do and embody the name we’re giving (ourselves). That’s not to say it won’t fail. But I don’t feel it’s going to.”
But like European clubs, Heineman said several other sports – like lacrosse and rugby – will also fall under the Sporting KC umbrella. He said the team will have plenty of chances to grow its brand and involve the community, thanks to developing assets like the new stadium, the new fields being built in Kansas City, Kan., and the likely expansion of the fields at Swope Park.
“Sporting, to us, is just as much about a 5-year-old girl playing soccer in Brookside as it is about Teal Bunbury playing for the U.S. National Team,” Heineman continued. “And that’s how we want to project ourselves to Kansas City.”
With rumors of a name change circling for months, Heineman admits he’s received mixed feedback from fans, many of whom are longtime followers who grew attached to the Wizards name. After all, couldn’t the ownership group have expanded its rebranding efforts by changing the logo and colors but keeping the moniker?
“I don’t think so,” Heineman said, “because there’s nothing innovative about the Kansas City Wizards name to me. It’s a name that already exists. It’s a name that doesn’t necessarily connect to any of the things we want to do with the brand going forward.”
However, Heineman admits that only time will tell if the decision to change the team’s name is the right one.
“Our convictions are pretty high, we’re committed to it, and we’re going to invest and spend against it,” Heineman said. “From there, we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”