Independence, MO – Are you passionate about philanthropy and crazy about soccer?
If so, Eastern Jackson County is the best place to live in the United States.
Let me explain:
• Kansas City is home to Sporting Kansas City, formerly the Kansas City Wizards. Sporting KC began in 1996 as the Kansas City Wiz, one of Major League Soccer’s original 10 teams. The club will christen its state-of-the art Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. this season.
• Independence is home to the Missouri Comets, formerly the Kansas City Comets. The Kansas City Comets moved to town in 1981 as part of the original Major Indoor Soccer League. The remade team played the home games of its 2010-11 debut season in the Independence Events Center, a 5,800-seat multipurpose arena that opened in 2009.
Kansas City shares a distinction with Chicago, home to MLS’s Chicago Fire and MISL’s Chicago Riot, and Washington, D.C., home to MLS’s D.C. United and MISL’s Baltimore Blast: They’re the only three U.S. cities where one can watch professional soccer year-round. MLS games run from March through October, and MISL matches begin in November and end in March.
With me so far? Kansas City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., have professional indoor and outdoor and soccer teams, giving futbol freaks like me year-round pleasure.
Got it. But what makes Kansas City – much less Eastern Jackson County – unique among them?
In a word: Philanthropy.
Earlier this week, Sporting KC announced it would give its $200 million stadium’s naming rights to Livestrong, the foundation Lance Armstrong formed to fight cancer. The only similar partnership in the world is between UNICEF and the Barcelona soccer team, which pays UNICEF about $2 million a year to put its logo on team jerseys.
Sporting KC owners believe the new stadium’s gross revenues will eclipse their six-year, $7.5 million-plus Livestrong gift because of the ability Lance Armstrong’s personal ties to the likes of U2’s Bono and Justin Timberlake have to draw bookings they wouldn’t otherwise attract. They’re confident revenue from such appearances will exceed the estimated $12 million in annual income – $2 million for naming rights and $10 million in non-soccer stadium earnings – they’re trading for a charitable contribution deduction and the Livestrong brand’s power to generate significant event revenue.
I think the whole thing’s pretty cool. It’s true that Lance Armstrong has made some poor personal choices and remains under investigation for the use of performance-enhancing drugs during his cycling career. And Sporting KC will likely make more money on the Livestrong deal than it would have through a traditional sponsorship, so the gift is certainly smart business.
But look what we get in return.
First, Kansas City remains true to its reputation as a philanthropic innovator. The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation has long been a national leader – and now our professional outdoor soccer team will give a minimum of $7.5 million over six years to fight cancer.
Beyond that, soccer fans like me can watch live professional matches of the world’s sport 12 months a year and support the cancer battle.
Smart philanthropy and good business can coexist. I’m glad they do on Kansas City’s professional soccer scene – and that the Comets call Eastern Jackson County and Independence Events Center home.