NWSL’s Kansas City Current Open First Stadium Dedicated To Women’s Soccer

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The Kansas City Current, one of the 14 franchises in the U.S. Women’s Soccer League, will open its own stadium this Saturday against Portland. The 11,500-seat CPKC Stadium is the world’s first stadium built for women’s soccer.

It sits on the banks of the Missouri River, just a few minutes from downtown Kansas City. For the past few days, all that’s been left to do is the final preparations; the finishing touches. The last banners have to be hung, the last flags arranged and the refreshment stands set up. But everyone at Kansas City Current is confident that CPKC Stadium will be ready for its inauguration.

This Saturday, the christening of the arena against the Portland Thorns will conclude a year and a half of frantic work. Above all, it will officially confirm the venue’s unique status as the first stadium built to host women’s soccer. “It’s crazy,” enthuses Claire Lavogez, a former French international who joined the club in the summer of 2022. “We’ve got our names on the changing rooms, it really is our stadium. At Sporting (the MLS franchise that used to lend its arena to the team), we always felt a bit like outsiders. This is ours!”

The stadium is the end result of the $117 million invested by Angie Long, owner of the Kansas City Current club.

Of course, the stadium won’t be reserved exclusively for the NWSL. Football games, rugby matches, and concerts are already planned. But it will remain primarily the home of the KCC, which owns it in its entirety. This was one of the commitments made by Angie Long, owner of the club since its creation at the end of 2020. “We wanted to move fast, and by financing it privately, we moved even faster than we’d hoped. It also allowed us to own it and have 100% control over our stadium.”

With her husband Chris (also a financial magnate) the couple invested $117 million— $47 million more than originally planned. He was able to count on the support of another famous couple, Brittany and Patrick Mahomes., as the Chiefs quarterback and his wife took an equity stake in the local project.

Fifth-highest attendance last season

Last year, the club also acquired a modern training center, on a par with those of the best MLS franchises. “It’s proof of the investment we want to make in women’s sport,” says franchise president Raven Jemison. “We believe that these women should be treated like the top athletes they are, and that they deserve their infrastructure.” These investments, estimated at nearly $200 million in infrastructure over the past three years, have contributed to the franchise’s growth.

“The club has an excellent image here,” confirms Shawn Meadow, NWSL journalist for SportBusiness. “The local population is delighted and follows the team very actively because they are convinced by all these investments.” Aided by the appeal of a mid-sized Midwestern city to the sport, last year they were the fifth-busiest team. Each match drew an average of 11,300 fans, 4,000 more than in 2022, despite the team’s lackluster results.

All matches sold out

Despite an ambitious recruitment drive that should enable them to play in the top flight, the club has chosen to build a stadium with just 11,500 seats. It was a conscious decision, justified by the need to be sure of filling it. The gamble paid off, with all 13 regular-season home games already sold out. Lavogez is surprised by the response. “In France, we barely had twenty or thirty fans… There’s a huge difference in the way we’re treated here, by the clubs but also by the public and the media. Here, we have slow-motion replays, VAR, and we’re a long way from the single camera of the D1 Arkema. I hope that one day, in Europe, we’ll be on a par with what’s done here.”

Michele Kang has the ambition. The owner of women’s Olympique Lyonnais, which arrives in February 2023, has already announced that the club “needs (a) stadium”. But even across the Atlantic, the Current initiative remains the only one in the NWSL for the time being. “Other franchises rent their stadiums. In other cities, construction space is very limited, and it would be extremely expensive to build a stadium,” explains Meadow. However, the club is quick to point out that several other teams have visited the stadium and studied the specifications for inspiration. And Long concludes. “We’re the first and we won’t be the last. This is just the beginning.”

This post is originally from L’Équipe