Exactly 17 weeks from today, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter will announce which countries will play host to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.
And OnGoal vice president of development David Ficklin is succinct in what that means for us.
“We don’t have any doubt that the U.S. will host the 18 or 22 World Cup,” Ficklin said, “and that Kansas City will be a host city.”
Ficklin sat down for a chat about Kansas City’s World Cup bid after reading about my concerns earlier in the week.
I noted that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said “there’s a lot of challenges” before Kansas City could play host to a Super Bowl. But Ficklin believes that is hogwash. He was previously employed by HOK Sport Venue Event (which is now called Populous) and had previously worked at the Super Bowls in Detroit and Jacksonville, Fla.
“Being in Jacksonville and Detroit, neither one of them holds a candle to this city,” Ficklin said. “If those cities can do it, they didn’t have mass transit, they didn’t have the hotels.”
Hotel space and public transportation are two concerns regarding a potential Super Bowl bid here, but Ficklin said those are not worries for KC’s bid to host the World Cup, which is a considerably bigger event.
“With all due respect to the commissioner of the National Football League,” Ficklin said, “I don’t know what numbers he’s looking at, but for the World Cup we have 30,000 room nights under contract. They have signed a contract with FIFA for 18 and 22. And that’s not the entire inventory (of the Kansas City area).”
Arguably the worst part of life in Kansas City is the abysmal public transportation. It’s simply not easy to get around on either side of the state line without a car, but Ficklin believes that too would not be a problem.
“You don’t need mass transit to host a Super Bowl. Neither Detroit nor Jacksonville had it,” Ficklin said. “Part of the Super Bowl planning is there are massive park-and-ride lots. Distribute the crowd far away and you bring them in a very organized manner on buses. It’s the exact same concept we applied to our World Cup planning.
“If there is no rail service, either light or heavy or magnetic levitation to the airport when we host the World Cup, we’ll have a fantastic shuttle service. You can imagine it going straight to Union Station as the hub and then out. MAX (Bus Rapid Transit) lines already exist. We use Union Station and Liberty Memorial really as what the Europeans call City Center, but I call it the heart of our World Cup plan.”
Kansas City is one of 18 U.S. cities in the running to be a host city for a World Cup, and local soccer fans should be thrilled to have Ficklin working on Kansas City’s bid. He has previous experience on World Cup and Olympic bids. He helped Sochi, Russia, win the 2014 Winter Olympics, and he was on the losing end for Morocco for the 2010 World Cup.
Ficklin said that every bidding process is a good experience, whether or not the city or country comes up as the winner. You always learn something.
But of all the defeats that stick in his craw, it’s one that he wasn’t even a part of that drives him: the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Just nine cities played host to games that year.
“In 1994, Kansas City was one of the last cities cut if not the last cut,” Ficklin said. “I said no way that is going to happen. I would say that Kansas City’s bid has never been stronger.”