The World Cup begins on Thursday, but Johnny’s Tavern on Grand Boulevard started preparation for its watch parties a month ago.
General manager Kyle Witherspoon installed a countdown clock, and as the days, hours, minutes and seconds inched closer to the World Cup, he also got a decibel reader to measure how loud his bar will get.
The United States’ first game is against Ghana on Monday. Ghana ousted the United States from the 2010 World Cup in the round of 16 — a game that cultivated 12,000 fans to crowd into the Power & Light District. It was one of the largest outdoor World Cup viewing parties in the United States.
Among the crowd was Zach Cobb, a team photographer for Sporting Kansas City, who plans on watching the majority of the World Cup matches and certainly the U.S. matches in the Power & Light’s “Living Room” area again this year.
“It’s one, big centralized screen,” Cobb said. “Like a festival or concert.”
Admission to the watch parties is free. In addition to the big screen in the Living Room, surrounding bars will also show the games and offer food and drink specials, including Johnny’s, McFadden’s Sports Saloon, Tengo Sed Cantina, The Dubliner, Pizza Bar, Gordon Biersch Brewery, Bar Louie and Johnny’s Tavern.
Johnny’s is the headquarters for the Kansas City chapter of American Outlaws, a national members-only fan club of the United States men’s national team. Members who watch the games there are bringing in a camera and streaming their watch party online for anybody to see.
“The World Cup is about a month event, but the three days that USA plays, I tell vendors, staff, customers, ‘Hey, it’s going to be a Big 12 Tournament atmosphere down here,’” Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon said that the World Cup has a similar effect on business as the Big 12 Tournament does, without knowing the exact economics.
“It’s a ton of fun to be downtown for the World Cup,” Witherspoon said. “These events and these watch parties are a blast to be at. Soccer fans are so passionate and so knowledgeable. And just being in the environment of the celebrations and the songs. It is a blast to be a part of it.
“Soccer fan, non-soccer fan. Sports fan, not a sports fan. It’s a great, great environment to be in.
“I hope that people who came here in 2010 remember what a good time it was and decide to come back down.”
For those who don’t venture to Power & Light or any other venues in downtown Kansas City, there will be a watch party available at Johnson County Community College’s Yardley Hall.
Emily Behrmann, the general manager of the Performing Arts Series at the college, was speaking to one of her supervisors when the thought dawned to host watch parties for the U.S. team’s games.
“We have a nice, comfortable place to watch the games,” Behrmann said. “It’s a great alternative.”
Admission to the 1,250-seat indoor building is free and seating is first-come, first-serve. Beverages, including beer and wine, will be sold, but not food.
“We’ve had rock and roll concerts, I think we can handle soccer fans,” she said.
Other places to watch the World Cup
If you’re watching at home, all 64 World Cup matches will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.
Kansas City Bier Company, 310 West 79th Street, Kansas City
Futbol Club Eatery and Tap, 12030 Blue Valley Parkway, Overland Park
Westport Ale House, 4128 Broadway, Kansas City