Kansas City soccer fans have a lot to be excited about these days.
The Wizards are winning, playing a high-tempo, “90 Minutes of Hell” brand of soccer that’s equal parts thrilling and poetic, truly “Joga Bonita,” or The Beautiful Game. The roster is vastly improved over last year’s strugglers. Ryan Smith, from England, and Stephane Auvray, a Guadalupan who played in France, are the brightest additions. Indian import Sunil Chhetri has been creating a loud international buzz and is reported to be blisteringly fast.
Still, the bigger cause for celebration must be the quick pace with which the Wizards’ new stadium in Village West in Kansas City, Kan., is taking shape.
On Saturday, the ceremonial “steel signing” occurred, where supporters signed the first of almost 1,500 locally made girders that will be hoisted into place. Within a year, the girders will help support the partial roof that will keep 18,000 fans dry as they watch games. Construction began in January, and already 30-foot high walls of concrete stretch down what will soon be one sideline. The site is beginning to look like the outline of a soccer stadium.
The stadium is part of a $420 million plan that also includes a 600,000-square-foot office complex to which Kansas has pledged $230 million in tax incentives and STAR bonds.
The financing was a bold move by Kansas and Kansas City, Kan., in tough times. The Wizards’ decision to expand during a recession was equally gutsy. Right now, the moves look like winners.