Thursday, June 9, 2011
Long-awaited day finally arrives for SKC
Davy Arnaud woke up Sunday night and prodded his wife awake.
It was 3 a.m., but Arnaud couldn’t sleep. He had Sporting Kansas City’s looming stadium opening on the brain. After an hour tossing and turning, SKC’s captain started wondering how he was going to get through a week of thinking about and anticipating something so many years in the making.
Four days later, everything is finally winding down for Arnaud. He’ll have no more sleepless nights. No more time to kill. The wait is over.
“It’s been tough, man,” he said. “You see it in the distance and the future, but you have other games to worry about before then. But now that we are coming home, I can’t even describe it.”
After years of planning, preparing and, finally, building, the day is finally here. Sporting Kansas City will open Livestrong Sporting Park on Thursday night in front of a national television audience on ESPN2 (10 p.m. ET), kicking off a new phase in the club’s history and giving Major League Soccer another gem to display to the world.
A little before 9 p.m. CT, Arnaud will lead his teammates through the field club and out the midfield tunnel for the first time. More than 18,000 fans will pack the seats, suites, clubs and concourses, soaking in their first opportunity to experience the $200 million venue that Sporting are trumpeting as the most technologically advanced stadium in the league and possible the country.
And as special as the night will be, it’s important to remember that it almost didn’t happen.
Livestrong Sporting Park and Sporting Kansas City only exist in their current forms because of the dedication and determination of Sporting’s ownership group, who picked up where Lamar Hunt left off and sunk millions of their own dollars into making what was once just a dream, and a longshot at that, into a reality.
Leading that charge was club president Robb Heineman. And Forget Sunday night. This is a day and an occasion that Heineman has been dreaming about for close to a decade.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about daily, nightly for the last seven years,” Heineman said. “Once opening night comes and goes, I’m not sure what I’ll dream about. It’s an incredibly proud moment. There were lots of bumps in the road, and we really kind of had to thread the needle to make it happen.”
But in the end — with the help of local government — Sporting’s thread finally slipped through the needle’s eye. Ground was broken. The first beam was put in place. The place went up in a mindboggling 16 months and is as good or better than anyone involved could have imagined.
The players rave about the immaculate field and world-class locker rooms. The fans love the intimate atmosphere, attention to detail and acres of premium space. The community as a whole is just happy Kansas City’s professional soccer club finally has a home to call their own.
As soon as the final whistle blew last Saturday night in Toronto, the focus immediately shifted to the occasion that awaited them on Thursday night. There are just hours left before the doors open now.
And the general consensus is that they can’t get here soon enough.
“It’s just a feeling of ‘Wow, here it comes. It’s almost here,’” defender Michael Harrington said. “I can only imagine once game time rolls around. It will be something special.”