Kansas City opens new soccer stadium with $5,000 chairs, a cow, and no actual scoring

Sporting Kansas City (formerly the Kansas City Wizards, but that didn’t sound soccer enough) opened their new $200 million Livestrong Sporting Park yesterday, after spending nearly the first three months of the season on the road. And if you’re wondering what you can get in a soccer stadium for $200 million — nearly double what was spent on the Philadelphia Union‘s stadium — apparently it’s this:

More than 330 high definition televisions will be placed around the stadium, the first MLS park fully equipped for HDTV.

In the plush home locker room, players will sit on $5,000 seats imported from Spain. The seats are equipped with power docks so they can access information during halftime. The spacious media room where postgame interviews will be conducted is right next to a large bar and food area. Fans will be able to look through the glass partition to see the interviews while the audio is piped to them.

And what do those fans think of it? The game was a sellout, but according to the Kansas City Star, not everybody is planning a return trip:

During halftime, the soccer match still scoreless, fans began trickling out of the new stadium. Dominic Jones was one of those who headed for the exit. He carried a poster tube; its contents would be delivered to Jones’ daughter.

“I just wanted to come here and get the feel of it,” said Jones, 36. “It’s something for fans to be proud of. But when it’s all said and done, it’s not football.”

In other news, someone dressed as a cow ran onto the pitch during the match’s waning minutes and kicked a ball into the goal. Other than that, it was a 0-0 tie. It sure isn’t football — except for, you know, it being football.

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Wizards break ground, economic impact study rejoices

In case you’ve been holding your breath waiting to see if the Kansas City, Kansas council would approve the Wizardsalready-in-the-works stadium plan, it did so on Tuesday. The team, wasting no time, immediately broke ground yesterday on the project, which is to include an 18,000-seat soccer-only stadium to be ready for the 2012 season.

MLSnet, the soccer league’s web arm, reports:

The economic impact of the development was the most talked-about issue during the course of the board’s meeting. Every speaking member praised the impact the project would have on Wyandotte County, in terms of both money and job creation.

Between the stadium, offices, and field complex, OnGoal, LLC’s development is expected to create over 8,000 new jobs in the Wyandotte County area, with a total economic impact of over $500 million annually.

Ignore the “economic impact” numbers, which are meaningless, and focus on the job figures: With the public set to provide $147 million in sales tax rebates for the overall project, that’d come to under $20,000 per new job created, which is actually pretty reasonable as economic development projects go. The big question, of course, is whether all 8,000 jobs (most of which presumably wouldn’t be Wizards-related) would really be “new,” or if some of them would have located elsewhere in Wyandotte County without the subsidy. And there’s also the question of whether the county could do just as well by spending its sales tax money on something else — especially given the recent findings that the most effective job creation measure may be giving money to the unemployed.

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Wizards head for Kansas after all

So the Kansas City Wizards may not be holding out after all: The team announced Thursday night that it was moving ahead with a new stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, with “yellow machines on site” next week, “moving dirt, at our expense.” While team president Robb Heineman noted “the formal agreements have yet to be inked,” the plan is for the stadium, part of a $400 million development project being undertaken by the Lane4 Property Group, to open in mid-2011.

What apparently broke the logjam, if that’s what it was, was that the Wizards got reassurances that bond buyers would be willing to invest in construction bonds for the project. While the breakdown for the arena itself isn’t available, the overall development is in line to get $147 million in sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds, which kick back sales taxes collected in the development area to pay off construction bonds — in other words, a STIF, generally considered one of the more dubious of development funding schemes, since any increase in sales-tax receipts likely comes at the expense of sales taxes raised elsewhere. Some of it, no doubt, will be cannibalized from Kansas City, Missouri, since the Wizards will be relocating from there. But they’ll have to sell an awful lot of tickets to make up for $147 million in lost tax revenue.

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Wizards still holding out for more public money

Disproving the notion that it’s not news if nothing happens, the Kansas City Business Journal has an article this week noting that there’s been no notable progress toward beginning construction on a new 18,500-seat stadium for the Kansas City Wizards. Of course, that’s going to happen when your team CEO declares, “Unless the world falls apart, we will break ground this year,” and it’s almost the end of the year. And the world hasn’t fallen apart. (Not yet, anyway.)

What’s the holdup? Apparently, even though the Kansas Department of Commerce offered developer Lane4 $229.5 million in sales-tax kickbacks, cash, and other tax breaks for the $400 million project (which includes offices and other development in addition to the stadium) in October, Lane4 is griping that the state has capped the total subsidy at that level, which means it can’t get as low an interest rate as it would like. So far, the state isn’t budging — though it did offer to pay more of the subsidy up front — so we have a stalemate.

Meanwhile, there’s still that plan for a new stadium in the other Kansas City waiting in the wings. It must be nice to have more than one date to the prom — you get a nicer corsage that way.

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Wizards to play off one K.C. against the other?

The Kansas City Wizards are looking across the river in Kansas City, Kansas in their search for a new stadium, and boy, is stadium-lovin’ Kansas City Star writer Kevin Collison excited. Check out this lede:

The Kansas Speedway area has emerged as the new choice for a long-sought Wizards soccer stadium in a sweeping proposal that would include at least 4,000 new Cerner Corp. jobs.

Read further down, and it turns out that the Wizards owners are just saying they’d “consider” putting a new office for their software company there, if they decide to open one. Also, that they plan to ask the state and county for sales-tax money to build the $400 millin project.

Kansas City, MO city council member John Sharp, meanwhile, who represents the Bannister Mall area that the Wizards had previously targeted for a stadium, sounded jilted: “The city and state of Missouri have offered these developers every economic incentive we have to offer. I don’t know what else we could do, other than offer to back all their construction costs. … I don’t know if we could do that without severely jeopardizing the city credit rating.” Or the two Kansas City could stop throwing money at stealing each other’s development projects — but that’d be crazy talk.

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