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Murrel BlandMurrel Bland
Robb Heineman, the chief executive officer of the Sporting Kansas City soccer club, announced plans recently for a $50 million national soccer training center that could be developed in Kansas City, Kan.
Heineman was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Kansas City, Kan., Area Chamber of Commerce at the Reardon Convention Center.
Exact details of the project are somewhat sketchy; however such a center could bring thousands of hotel room nights to the area according to Heineman.
Heineman glows in the success of Sporting Kansas City’s new soccer stadium in the Legends. It has received various honors from peer sports organizations from across the world.
However, Heineman readily admitted there were serious challenges that the team, formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards, faced when it played in the Arrowhead football stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and the Kansas City T-Bones baseball park in Village West.
Simply stated, neither of those venues were designed for soccer fans. The new stadium has all of the digital bells and whistles to make it a fast-moving, exciting fan experience. The stadium’s success, according to Heineman, has led to a spinoff effort in which sporting management and digital technology have come together to produce a product or service that would benefit sports activity.
Originally, Heineman said the soccer team planned to move to Bannister Mall in Kansas City Mo. However, there were development challenges at that location.
Heineman said he then talked to Ric Worner, an investment banker who was instrumental in attracting various major retail businesses to the Village West.
A deal was struck so the soccer club could use sales tax bonds to build its stadium. In exchange, the Cerner company would build an office complex in Village West that would house 4,000 employees earning an average salary of $57,000 a year. Two of the founders of Cerner, a medical information software company, Neal Patterson and Cliff Illig, are also principal owners of Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting Kansas City is sending out requests for proposals for the training site. I expect there will be no shortage of responses.
When the stadium was announced a few years ago, there also was discussion that Sporting Kansas City would develop youth soccer fields. Initially there was speculation the fields would be in Wyandotte County Park, Bonner Springs, just east of 126th Street and south of State Avenue.
However, a person knowledgeable about that location said there were “environmental concerns” because of a pipeline. Also, the source said that the hilly terrain of the park would require “substantial excavation” that would be quite costly.
I would hope that Sporting Kansas City would follow up with its plans to develop youth soccer fields. Possibly the national soccer training complex would afford such an opportunity.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.