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Hello, Kansas City?

The Kansas City Wizards have won four of their first five games. They have an energetic young coach (Curt Onalfo) and a resurgent young forward (Eddie Johnson). They have arguably the finest defender in MLS (Jimmy Conrad), a vastly underrated outside back (Jose Burciaga Jr.) and one of the league's most accomplished goalkeepers (Kevin Hartman). They have a new investment group in place and long-term plans for a new stadium.

I've got to wonder, though, after seeing attendance figures for their first two home matches, whether anyone in Kansas City cares.

I know it's no fun watching a game at cavernous Arrowhead Stadium and the dates/times of the two games were not ideal (a weeknight and a Saturday early afternoon) but still, an announced crowd of 7,426 on a cloudy, 71-degree day? This on the heels of a 7,438 turnout in the home opener. You're telling me in a metropolitan area of nearly 2 million, you can't attract 10,000 fans to a professional sporting event?

I've heard all the excuses over the years -- kickoff times conflict with kids' games, it was raining, lack of media attention, blah blah blah -- but attendance figures like these are simply embarrassing to the league.

Your thoughts?

On a brighter note, check out Burciaga's late game-winner at the end of this highlight package.

By Steve Goff  |  May 5, 2007; 4:02 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Next: Matchday 5: Chivas USA at D.C. United

Comments

And I thought the attendance for the United game Thursday was appalling..

Posted by: Garret | May 5, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

truely sad. Looked horrible on TV. And embarrassing?

Posted by: brainer | May 5, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

It's a disgrace. They don't deserve a team, and definitely don't deserve a stadium before we get one.

Posted by: Riz | May 5, 2007 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I've never seen the fanbase in KC. I don't why they bother. Toronto and even Salt Lake have shown how moving away from the traditional markets can be a real boon for the league.

MLS should be targetting younger, growing cities where the league can also grow.

Stay clear of dying cities like Detriot and Philly. Embrace Portland, Raleigh and Vancouver.

I think it's a damned shame, but unless the fans start to come, the league and the new KC owners shouldn't tie themselves to the area with a stadium. Columbus and Dallas evem has shown that this is by far and away no guarantee of attendance.

Posted by: Aljarov | May 5, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Yes, it was awful, but Dallas last Sunday was just as bad (and that's in a soccer specific stadium!). I never thought a team in KC was wise, though Lamar Hunt was clearly going to get one there. Dallas, on the other hand, has no excuses as far as I'm concerned...no matter where Frisco is situated.

Posted by: Hoost | May 5, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Kansas City's new stadium should not be the MLS standard 18,000-20,000 seeater, but a Scottish standard size, which is (excluding Rangers and Celtic) roughly 14,500 seats. A good example is Tannadice Park (home of Dundee United FC), which seats 14,209. KC could build a 14,000 seat stadium that could be expanded to 20,000 seats in the future, such as by adding 2 upperdecks on the sideline for example.

Posted by: Dave the Wave | May 5, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Dave. KC should follow the USL model in Atlanta or Carolina. Build a smaller stadium (8-10k) with room to grow.

Posted by: EA | May 5, 2007 5:21 PM | Report abuse

The Hunt organization stopped trying to sell soccer in KC 7 or 8 years ago... merged operations into the Chiefs front office, and the Chiefs employees didn't try one bit to sell the Wiz... never mind that, they didn't know how to sell because they had no need to sell a team like the Chiefs. After years of neglect by the Chiefs, the perception of the Wiz around KC is that it is definitely minor league... new owners can't change that in a few months. It will take 5 years+ to really change things there. The market isn't that bad, it's the organization.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I think adding Rochester to the league next year and Vancouver and Montreal in the next two years satisfies the MLS requirements for soccer-specific stadiums that also have fan bases that care about soccer. KC's fan base is appalling especially due to the quality of the product being displayed. Perhaps the Wizards should move to San Diego (growing market that produces some of the finest soccer talent, large Hispanic population, and weather that doesn't get like Florida in the summer). I hope Garber reads this.

Posted by: fcmuenchweiler | May 5, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

fcmuenchweiler,

There's nothing much that Garber can do about this. KC's owners are all based in KC and they won't be letting the team move (or selling it) anytime soon. They have to build a smaller stadium, which would reduce construction/operating costs that would help balance the poor attendance. In the mean time, they have to follow Denver/Dallas' lead and build a large number of youth fields, so that the younger generation will get attracted to the game and fill up the seats in future years. Moreover, Garber needs to realize that KC is lacking a true rival in MLS. Adding St. Louis would create a regional rivalry within a reasonable travel distance for both sets of fans. Plus, St. Louis is a large untapped soccer market. The largest untapped markets left open are St. Louis, the Bay Area and San Diego. Montreal and Rochester are great soccer markets, but I don't think that they should be accessed by MLS, since the USL needs some stability and room for growth in these regional areas. MLS could get a team in Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver and leave the USL's regional stability unharmed in the NW. However, I strongly question the viability of Vancouver after the demise of the Grizzlies. Also, I don't see Seattleites voting for a new soccer stadium, when they already have QWest field. And yes, QWest is listed as being a football and soccer stadium, so any group that tries to campaign for a soccer stadium in Seattle will have an awful lot of trouble trying to convince the voters why QWest field isn't viable. And we know how rigid Seattle voters can be when it comes to stadiums (i.e. ref. Supersonics). Portland is probably the best bet for an MLS expansion in the Pac NW. The only other top-level professional team that they have to compete with is the Trailblazers and they have a very passionate soccer fanbase. I really hope that MLS goes after Portland ahead of Seattle and Vancouver. Although, if Paul Allen wants an MLS team in Seatlle, then I'm game;)

Posted by: Dave the Wave | May 5, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

KC's resurgence after a few years of miserable soccer is yet another parallel between this year and 2000.

Posted by: Dave Lifton | May 5, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

it is a shame, and the Wizards do deserve better, but it's going to take some serious time and effort to rework themselves into the KC sports mindset, and Arrowhead just looks awful that empty. while that marketing and growth is happening, they simply shouldn't be on TV nationally, it's Busch (sorry) league.

Posted by: northzax | May 5, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Ajalrov, really unfair to categorize Philly as a "dying city". It's still a major city in the US as well as being a passionate soccer town. So much so that many people from the area regulary attend DC or Red Bull matches which is at least 3-4 hrs in the car each game. In fact, we already have a supporters club (Sons of Ben).

I don't necessarily agree with building a smaller stadium as the costs would not decrease proportionately. All of the infrastructure and site work will still need to be the same, especially if you plan on expanding it in the near future.

Sad to hear that KC's attendance was poor again today. Near the end of last year, we heard that there was a possibility of the Wizards coming to Philly. While we would not have been happy for the loyal KC fans, we were pumped that we were getting a pretty good MLS team.

Hope the fans start showing up and supporting their side as KC looks to be pretty solid this year.

Posted by: George H. | May 5, 2007 7:21 PM | Report abuse

KC should not have a team period. I have friends and family in the Seattle area and while I like the idea of a team there I think Portland would truly embrace a team if they were able to keep the Portland Timber (or is it Timbers?) identity. They have some incredible fans that would put a good many MLS teams to shame.

Posted by: rwhgeek | May 5, 2007 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Can someone quickly tell me about the new KC owners? I'm stunned that anyone bought into this.

7,400 in May is disgraceful. In any stadium.

The problem with stadiums smaller than 18k (as in Col.) is that there is less use for concerts and other money making events that attract new soccer owners in the first place.

Posted by: Nogra Rover | May 5, 2007 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Well, Kansas City isn't the only weak sister in the league and, once upon a time, the Wiz drew fairly decently (assuming the numbers back then weren't totally cooked). I think that what's going to happen over the next few years, what with more T.V. money and international stars coming into the league, is that the wheat is going to be separated from the chaff in MLS.

The next ten yeas are going to be interesting for soccer fans. And, just like the NBA back in its second & third decades (i.e., the late 50's and to the mid-70's) and the NFL back in its next second & third decades (i.e., the 30's and 40's) we're going to see teams that can't make it where they are now going to places where they that they can. I suppose that's not a bad thing necessarily if it means that soccer begins taking off and reaches a higher level of mainstream fan interest.

Posted by: Steve | May 5, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Rochester had a game on last night (FSC) and the crowd wasn't much better than these sparse MLS crowds (announced 9107 but it looked really empty in half the stadium - they didn't show the camera side much).

Montreal charges next to nothing for tickets. Given Toronto's success, I think they'd do fine, but it's no guarantee.

Vancouver is a few years away from getting their stadium.

There's no perfect place to dump KC. And as said above, their new owners are VERY LOCAL and not interested in operating a team anywhere else. Maybe they'll have trouble getting their stadium and sell in the next year or two. Maybe they'll lose so much they'll give up, but my guess is KC is here to stay. I hope they can make a SSS work.

Posted by: undrafted | May 5, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

The KC attendance problems have been well documented here. On the field, the game today was frightfully bad. The wizards and the crew played like a couple of scrub teams that could care less about scoring goals or playing anything resembling the game of soccer. Simply utter dreck. Too many (though not all) MLS games are like this. This is another serious problem in addition to attendance. Burciaga did have a nice strike at the end, but wow that game was just a horrible, boring game.

Posted by: Ron | May 5, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Bunker Bob had several years to convince KC area people that futbol was a boring game akin to watching cars rust. Maybe Curt will revive the area interest by playing attacking futbol -- mebee not.

Having a rival would do wonders for the club. More than twenty fanatics might show up.

BTW, did they managage to shut the PA guy up during the game??

Posted by: GrillMaster | May 5, 2007 10:38 PM | Report abuse

A few seasons back DCU played KC in the playoffs and the televised match showed and announced crowd of 9 thousand...for PLAYOFFS.

Basically, if the KCers don't care about their team, why should anyone else?

It is a shame that one of most talented sides currently in the league is playing in a wasteland such as KC.

As far as Scottish scale stadia... with KC's attendance, I submit they go more along the lines of middle or high-school size stadia...or rec league bleachers...

Posted by: Erick | May 5, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Maybe for years it was because Boring Bob Gansler was coach?! His defense at all costs approach is a cure for amnesia. I hated watching that team play United---and that was only a few times a year.

Posted by: delantero | May 5, 2007 11:45 PM | Report abuse

It's a disgrace. I don't know why the owners bought that team to keep it in KC bc there is clearly no interest. On a positive note, there seemed to be a good number of Boca fans in the supporters group, as you could hear the cheers loud and clear the whole game...

Posted by: Nick | May 6, 2007 2:27 AM | Report abuse

KC attendance

2000 - 8,072
2001 - 10,954
2002 - 12,700 (only 200 behind Chicago, and 1000 more than MLS Cup Champion San Jose)
2003 - 15,573 (8 more than DC United!!! and Dallas had less than 8000)
2004 - 14,816
2005 - 9,691
2006 - 11,083

As you can see KC attendance virtually increased every season until Lamar put the team up for sale, the marketing department was basically shut down, and people started staying away because of the uncertainity. They also don't get the benefit of double headers and the like.

Dallas attendance was under 10,000 before Pizza Hut Park was built, and Colorado was arguably worse (minus the July 4th game), and only 10K showed up this past week at their spanking new facility.

Yet, KC continues to be the attendance whipping boy in the league. I think it has to do with them having the word "Kansas" in their name. The new ownership only came in at the end of August, give them some time to right the ship and build back their attendance. The fact that they were able to get local ownership, when their darling Chiefs have been owned by a Texan all these years is a miracle in itself.

People have been saying "Move the Wizards" for about a decade now. They're not going anywhere.

Posted by: ex KC resident | May 6, 2007 4:41 AM | Report abuse

nothing new here, move along...

Posted by: JSF | May 6, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

I saw part of an NFL Europe match this weekend and the crowd looked similar to a KC home game.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | May 6, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse


How a sports league can call itself "Major League" with no team in Philadelphia, is beyond me. KC should be moved there asap.

Posted by: Rickster | May 6, 2007 6:57 PM | Report abuse

If Philadelphia had investors and a new stadium proposal, they would have a team.

Posted by: Goff | May 6, 2007 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Last I heard MLS and locals were talking about a Philly MLS team/facility in Glassboro, NJ... the attendance there would be not significantly better than KC, I don't think...

Posted by: Ron | May 7, 2007 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't blame KC as much as I would blame MLS. NY and Colorado didn't do much better than KC last year and the only reason NY was above 10K was because of one high attended game that featured Wycleff.

Without that number USL Rochester outdrew the Red Bulls.

If USL can succeed in markets like Rochester, Portland and Montreal (with a worse product?) you have to wonder why MLS fails with a better product in much bigger markets in NY, Florida, KC, SF Bay and yes Denver.

Maybe they need to lower ticket prices? Maybe they need to take a course from the NFL on how to market a product?

But moving teams from one market to another does nothing for the MLS if they still don't know how to promote it.

Posted by: Southeaterner | May 7, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Rochester needs new investors with really deep pockets to make the jump to MLS.

PAETEC Park is yet to be completed and NY State has yet to release $4 million for additional work and the team is trying to get the new governor to kick in $2 to $4 million that the previous governor had verbally committed to the project.

On top of that, the current owners don't have the money to purchase an MLS franchise for $30 million plus cover the $2 to 3 million per year in operating expenses.

So until some really rich people get on board, MLS to Rochester is a pipedream.

Posted by: Sleepless in Rochester | May 7, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Why can't KC be considered a smaller market club and look to draw 10-12K in the future? I don't see why they have to build a 20K stadium and expect to draw that. Scale it back, start small and build from there. Ajax Amsterdam was playing in a 20K stadium until the Amsterdam Arena was built in 1995 and they had 100 years of history and tons of trophies. KC would be wise to build a small but expandable stadium to generate interest first, then demand and finally scarcity.

Posted by: J Garretson | May 7, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I've attended one game at Arrowhead, and I've got family living in the KC area from whom I've heard a little about the team. So in the hearsay/one-data-point of observation category I can say:

"ex KC resident" above made a good point with the attendance data and the correlation to the "for sale" sign on the team. I hear that the Royals have had some similar problems in the KC area, too. Together with lack of marketing, and little things like sound effects and announcements hurting game atmosphere, it adds up to a small-time image;

The crowd in KC is probably a little more sophisticated than some outside the area give them credit for, and I think the Bob Gansler style - with disappointing recent performance - has taken its toll;

The metro area may have 2 million, but there is little outside the area to draw on. I hear in some cases kids in other towns in the region have only recently started with soccer at the high school level, for example. A poster mentioned in this thread going to DC United games from Philly - who is going to KC games from Omaha or Wichita?

I hope that the new owners can build up the fan base and a stadium, but they have some challenges.

Posted by: Rob | May 7, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

"Last I heard MLS and locals were talking about a Philly MLS team/facility in Glassboro, NJ... the attendance there would be not significantly better than KC, I don't think..."

Indeed! Glassboro is a southern exurb, precisely in the wrong direction. In that area, the sport has its deepest roots in NE Philly, which produced Walter Bahr of 1950 World Cup fame, and more recently Chris Albright and Bobby Convey. From there, the sport radiated to the nearby suburbs, which produced the second generation of Bahrs (who starred in both the old NASL and the NFL), as well as current MLS players such as Jim Curtin of the Fire. Although Rowan University (nee Glassboro State College) appears to be wooing MLS, the league and potential investors are better off holding out for something closer to, say, Northeast Philadelphia Airport, which, at least according to Mapquest, still has undeveloped land in the vicinity.

Posted by: Go Penn State! | May 7, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The Glassboro (Rowan) plan seems to have failed. The rumor is the 2 current potential investors are both looking at sites in Pennsylvania suburbs of Philly.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 7, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

They were doomed the second they named it 'the wizards'. They had a rainbow on the jersey. A rainbow. In the heartland.

A rainbow.

Call 'em Crusaders, or Jesus or Intelligent Designers and you got a shot of filling the seats.

Posted by: DCAustinite | May 7, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

as pointed out above, the Wizards aren't always last in the league in attendance, it just so happens that Arrowhead looks HORRIBLE when it is empty. There is something about bright red-orange seats that kinda leap out at ya. One day people will learn to put drab colored multi colored seats to "fool" the cameras.

As far as disgraces go, I consider the NY market a much larger disgrace attendance-wise. An 18 MILLION person metro area only pulling in 8K for a 1st place team is an absolute joke.

All that being said, most individual teams have been doing HORRIBLE jobs marketing their teams. The Fire's advertising is virtually non-existent in Chicago it's sad.

Posted by: papa bear | May 7, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

We who love soccer just don't understand why the seats are empty. There are not enough of us. Plain and simple. It has been this way for a long time, and each new, small generation of passionate fans has a hard time understanding that.

Posted by: sesoccer | May 8, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

How many people should be going to MLS games? What are you basing that number on? The key is are teams profitable and viable business entities. I am a lot more concerned about television ratings at this point. If MLS franchises can consistently get 10k in their facilities and continue to raise television revenue I would have to say the business model is viable.

As quoted below even the mighty Redskins had trouble getting people to their games at one point. Don't fret soccer fans the NFL seemed to work through their problems I think the MLS will also.

"During their inaugural first season in 1932 the team was named the Boston Braves because they played at Braves Field. After the 1932 season the Braves were moved to Fenway Park and renamed the Redskins. The team played their first game at Fenway Park in September 1933 against the New York Giants. The Redskins played four seasons at Fenway Park before moving to Washington after the 1936 because of low fan support."

Posted by: Random Guy | May 8, 2007 3:27 PM | Report abuse

For the record the Chicago Bears played at Wrigley Field for 49 years before they moved to "Football Specific" Soldier Field.

Posted by: Random Guy | May 8, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

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