SOCCER

Chiefs chairman Mark Donovan explains how they will bring the World Cup to Arrowhead

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On July 9, 2020, Kathy Nelson – the President and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission – logged on to her computer and prepared to explain to FIFA why Kansas City deserved to be one of the 2026 World Cup host cities.

Kansas City might not be the first city that comes to mind for a sports fan, but for those of us who have spent countless Saturday nights in the Cauldron at Children’s Mercy Park cheering on the team until our voices were heard or we stood huddled in the Power and Light District praying for John Brooks’ 86th-minute header that would see Team USA through to the knockout stage. knockout – we know a simple truth – the sport does indeed mean more in Kansas City.

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And go back as far as you want: Kansas City has always been a sports town. The only thing longer than our history is our memory.

For example, I bet many of you remember Joe Montana leading the Chiefs on a two-minute ride on Monday Night Football to beat the Broncos as clearly as you remember Patrick Mahomes’ claim, “Do we have time to chase the wasp?”

Going into the presentation with FIFA, Nelson and his team had two goals: to prove that Kansas City has a reputation for hosting major sporting events and that the city is committed to growing football in our community.

“We presented a strong and cohesive vision that demonstrates Kansas City’s experience as a host of major sporting events as well as our ability to unite an entire region around these events,” Nelson said. “Holding World Cup games in 2026 would allow us to cement our legacy as America’s soccer capital.”

According to Kansas City Chiefs team president Mark Donovan, when Nelson and his team started the game, Kansas City was on the outside and looking on the inside. FIFA listened to the pitch, but KC wasn’t expected to make the cut.

“There was a time when the FIFA team visited the 18 Candidate Cities and they had a presentation – this is your chance to shine,” Donovan reminded reporters on Friday. “And the feedback we received on this presentation, which was led by Kathy and her team… [there] were two key points before the meeting, were we on the bubble or just outside. [We were] probably not understood.

“Coming out of the meeting, we were firmly committed and we were most likely going to get it. It was a great day for us as a city to come together and show how special we are and how prepared we are for this.

People don’t realize what an amazing sports city Kansas City is until they see it with their own eyes, and then it’s so obvious it’s undeniable.

“We like to think that as Chiefs and operator of Arrowhead Stadium, we’re one of the best in the world,” Donovan explained. “We are very proud of the fan experience, but of the success of Sporting. The fact that this city, with the Royals, hosted an all-star game, the fact that we had the World Series is a factor. We have had championship games over and over and over. All of those things matter – Kathy’s experience in the Big 12 Championship.

“It was an opportunity to shine a light on all of that, and I will tell you that the people at FIFA came away very impressed, and I think that was really the tipping point that got us into it.”

The World Cup is the biggest single-sport competition in the world: 3.57 billion people watched the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Everything Kansas City has done so far pales in comparison. We have never seen anything like it from an exhibition standpoint.

Imagine for a moment: a group of children huddled around a television in the streets of Nigeria to watch the final game of the World Cup.

Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images

Or maybe a group of friends in their twenties got together for a watch party in Tehran.

Celebrating Iran's victory over Iraq in 2022 World Cup qualifiers

Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Or an entire Colombian neighborhood takes to the streets to watch their team play.

COLOMBIA-FBL-WC-2018-COL-SEN-SUPPORTERS

Photo credit should read JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images

In all of these scenarios, the on-screen stadium is Arrowhead – and includes hundreds of millions of eyes from every country in the world, watching the “beautiful game” being played in Kansas City.

“The World Cup puts Kansas City on a map where it has never been before,” Donovan said proudly. “When you think about the importance of the event and the fact that the team we were part of won this event, [it] should be noted and recognized…it’s going to be amazing when people see it, and it’s going to be really exciting to be a part of it as far as the stadium goes.

The Chiefs and Nelson still have a lot of work to do to make this dream scenario a reality. Donovan said the first thing to do was to remove a few thousand seats so the ground could be widened to meet FIFA standards.

“It’s actually a two-year building process,” Donovan explained. “It’s five or eight rows – a few corners that we have to work on, so it doesn’t seem like a big project, but I would say to you that when you go into the architecture of the building and the age of the building, it’s is a huge project.

“We’ve come up with a plan where we can actually do some of the work…our goal at this point is to make sure every seat is replaced…and [that we will] not lose a single seat for football. FIFA is actually pushing us a bit aggressively to try to reduce the number of seats we take away, which creates a better opportunity for us. This will be a huge challenge for our operations and construction team, [but it’s] the one for which we will be ready.

Donovan explained that construction on Arrowhead will begin after the 2024 season ends, “We’ll do it in the summer [2025]… then after the [2026] season, [we’ll] Take it out.”

Whatever improvements are made at Arrowhead, Donovan said they won’t affect the team’s decision whether or not to leave the Truman Sports Complex in future years to seek a location for a new stadium.

“I would tell you that is its own separate discussion. We have to think of the stadium as a whole entity and we have to do what we’re doing right, and I think that’s the recurring theme here. We have an important decision to make in a number of years and we need to make sure that we do all the due diligence and have all the information. »

Donovan said there are other challenges at play as well.

Chiefs and the city will need to figure out how to provide public transportation to and from surrounding areas to Arrowhead, as well as develop the area around the stadium so there are more places to eat beyond Taco Bell. and continental breakfast at the Best Western.

“We definitely have things we need to pay attention to and put effort behind. There is fundraising that we need to do. We have to convince people that we can do it. We can, but we have to show them how we’re going to do this.

Kansas City is at a crossroads. We are treading the path of uncharted territory. Soon all the bright lights of the world stage will shine directly on Arrowhead Stadium.

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