The Full 90

January stadium update: That new stadium feel

With five months to go until Sporting Kansas City's new soccer-specific stadium opens (the first game will be June 9), there still remains a lot of work to be completed: Sodding the field, placing the translucent covering on the roof, getting the rest of the masonry in place, installing the seats, selecting the concession providers, landscaping the exterior...Suffice it to say, for as much progress as the crews have made, there’s still a lot of work to be done over the next five months at the future home of soccer in Kansas City. But it really feels like a stadium now. You can see the seating options, you can get a good feel for the sight-lines, the video scoreboard berth is visible, the pressbox is in place, so on and so on. I had a chance to take a tour with OnGoal's vice president of development David Ficklin last week to see the progress and talk about what needs to be done. (We plan on getting together once a month to provide you the latest details on the stadium.)Here are the latest updates (and some of my thoughts) on the stadium progress. First off: There’s so much going on, from the installation of roof panels to hanging drywall in the green room for the stage, that it’s hard to encapsulate everything into one post. I’ve boiled it down to the things I found interesting/important. Included also is timeline information where applicable.

There should be ample acoustic advantages when this thing is done.

The sounds of construction (back-up beepers, droning heavy machinery, the sound of steel on steel, etc etc) outside filled the entire stadium. Filled it. Ficklin and I had to yell at certain points to communicate with each other. That’s a testament to a design meant to keep sound trapped inside the complex. And, it's going to get louder. As of Friday, only three sections of the translucent roof covering had been put into place (all over the highest point of the stadium, the northwest corner). Those will help push the noise back into the bowl.

There are still trucks on the field.

On Friday, work was being done to grade the field area and pour a warning footer along the perimeter. The plan next called for the installation of an under-soil heating and drainage system. The pipes were to be laid Monday, but I'm not sure if the snowstorm has changed those plans.

The grass will probably go down on April 1.

That's the target at least. Ficklin says they've had a lot of discussion about when to bring the grass to town (it's being grown in Colorado). Ultimately, they decided to let the sod come out of dormancy in Colorado and then bring it here and let it take root during prime growing season in Kansas City. If it goes down on April 1, it will have 70 days to take root before the first game.

It’s not been a perfect process

During our trip, workers were in the process of tearing out a small section (my estimation was four rows) of the East Stand. Ficklin told me that the elevations for those seats were above the allowable limits. Thankfully, under that section is just fill dirt, so nothing underneath that work is being held up.

Give the masons a hand.

The stone is going on now, which will give the stadium it's look and feel. Most of the stone work in the stadium is polished two-tone (dark and light gray). But, in some pictures, you'll notice some neon-green walls on the northwest corner. Those will be covered with a light-brown stone. (From a design perspective, it's a nice aesthetic touch to the brushed stone and steel look of the stadium.) The look will be a mixture of these blocks:

Does it meet ADA requirements?

According to Ficklin, every entrance is handicapped accessible (there is an elevator by the grand stairs and the entrance to the Member’s Stand as a wide ramp) and every pricing category has seating options for those with special needs. There will also be closed-captioning on the videoboards.

The videoboards.

The LED panels for the south scoreboard had arrived recently and will begin going up very soon. Within the next two weeks they'll start wiring it. When completed, that scoreboard will be 24-by-80 foot LED board. On the north end of the stadium, another LED board will go up soon. Ficklin tells me they just recently doubled the depth of it so it now will be 12-by-40 foot. Along the field level will also be LED videoboards like you see at Qwest Field and Red Bull Stadium.

Lights! Speakers!

All of the lights and most of the speakers have been installed on the roof. There are about 20 that remain on the ground near the stage. They will go on or near the main scoreboard.

Encased in glass.

The glass walls facing the bowl on the west side of the stadium are mostly completed. Both levels of suites have glass in place and the weather-proofing has been taken down. A little bit of work remains near the press area. The glass surrounding the outside of the Supporter’s Club will go on very soon.

Speaking of suites...

The visually dominating two-floor suite in the northwest corner is now, I'm told, "The visible home of Sporting Club." They will use that suite as a way to sell potential partners, players and fans. It's quite stunning, architecturally.

The grand stairs on the eastern side of the stadium are mostly in place.

The landing at the ground level hasn't been completed yet, but you can go up and down the stairs (which are not as daunting as they may seem in renderings or pictures; the slope is very gradual). This will be a trademark feature of the stadium and a favorite way for many fans to enter I think.

Inside the Supporter’s Club.

We toured the area that will one day house thousands of rabid SKC fans, but it was hard to get a read on the space. It was blocked off by a weather barrier so workers could install drywall away from the elements; construction equipment was piled up all over the area that will be the main walkway. Ficklin says the glass walls on the exterior should be up in the next two- to three weeks. When those are in place (plus a garage-door like opening for nice days) the weather wall can come down. Then, the space should be a little easier to read.*

*Personally, I'm still sort of blown away by the concept of this. A place inside the stadium for all members to congregate that will also serve as a meeting place for when games aren't taking place? Fantastic. And it's really huge, have I said that yet? On the “Bridge.”

On the outside, we walked around the northern walls of the stadium (nearest to Nebraska Furniture Mart). There will be a landscaped walkway at ground level and the skin of the stadium will be perforated steel. Above that wall will be an open walkway (the "bridge") that will connect the East and West stands. Fans will be able to stand on this bridge to watch the game. The scoreboard will hang 10-feet over the walkway.

Can it get bigger?

During the end of our tour, we discussed stadium expansion. I didn't know this, but they have built in to the plans a design that would allow them to expand the seating to about 25,000. On the south end (where the roof dramatically slopes downward), they would take the roof off, extend the pillars (there's a built in place to do this) and extend the roof to a uniform height. About 7,000 more seats can be added this way.

The extra space.

The space from the outside of the west side of the stadium stretching to the edge of the property is still a work in progress. Right now, it’s the main hub for the construction trailers and a parking lot. The plan is to create a space that will allow fans to congregate and play before the game.

I’ll have more later.

I toured the club section (all floors) and the press box, but as of right now, there's nothing to report on but drywall and angles that won’t make sense until there’s paint on the walls. Oh, and they are "buttoning up" the club level, which means most of the heating/electrical work is done. The same goes for the areas underground, primarily the locker room and field-club club. When I go back in February, I should have more on these sections.

Some Thoughts on Seating.

During this trip, I wanted to get a feel mostly for how the project was coming along and what some of the sight-lines would be. Specifically, I wanted to go on the party deck in the south-west corner of the field and the Member's Stand in the north and east section. (The east section was undergoing renovations and we couldn't stand there during my trip.)The "Southwest Party Terrace," as Ficklin called it, is a stunning section. Because of the angle of the seating (these seats are accessed from the main concourse and are not on the same level as the West Stand, they are slightly higher up), it feels like you are jutting out over the field. The area is designed for groups and the tables are half ovals that allow friends to sit together and see each other and the game simultaneously. The team is working with partners to develop a concept and strategy for this section. I do not believe tickets are on sale for that yet. Here’s what it the field will look like from the first row of this section:

Over at the Member's Stand, I wanted to experience what $14 (for season ticket holders) could buy you. The answer? A pretty darn nice view. The field is 120-by-75 yards and there's a small concrete buffer between the field and the stands (wide enough for a golf cart to drive on) and a few feet of grass between that and the field. Meaning, fans sitting in the first row of the Member's Stand on the north end will have this view.

I’m sure I’ve missed something or have failed to address something you might be wondering. Drop me an email if you’ve got a question about the stadium you think needs to be answered.