Friday, June 10, 2011

The Googling of Kansas CIty

So just a few things have happened while Bruce took in his 8th home opener in Kansas City last night. Mexican national team players failed some drug tests, some Cubans reportedly defected, and Chicharito is still riding a wave from Manchester United to the chair next to the heavenly father in every Mexican household. I know this because I'm on Twitter probably a little too much, but honestly I don't really care about any of that, as long as the Chicharito transubstantiation halts before the U.S. comes face to face with the baby Jesus. Which, you know what, isn't true. Any of it. I love that kid. What a player. Any U.S. fan and player should want to take on the best, and that very quickly is where that sweet pea appears to be heading.

So yeah, I read the headlines, but little else when it comes to sporting news. But the last few months, I have been neck deep in Sporting news. Not The Sporting News, that old newspaper that was a blog before there were blogs, and now that there are blogs no one has a use for (so of course AOL bought it). No not that. I'm talking about Sporting KC, that little club that could in Kansas City which opened its new stadium last night.

If I learned one thing from the months I spent reporting on the rebranding of Kansas City Wizards to Sporting KC, it's that the ownership group loves the word 'innovation.' In what was easily a hundred pages of transcriptions I boiled down to thirty, only the word Euro-poser came close to it's usage, not counting Heineman, which was easily the winner due to the leadership role the Sporting KC CEO and owner bravely played (whether you are for him or against him) over the last few years.

From a locker room with $5,000 chairs and smoothie bar, to a stadium wired with nearly 200 internet hotspots, from which you can soon, if not now, select replay angles on your phone and preferred camera angles in your suite, and of course order food, drinks, and jerseys to your seat, the stadium looks like a futuristic dream. Thanks to Sprint, Cisco, and Google, Livestrong Sporting Park sets new bars for not just soccer stadiums but any kind of stadium. Can you hear me now, Jerry Jones?

I can't get the stadium out of my mind. I can't wait to go there, something I would never say, no offense, about Kansas City unless Charlie Parker was still alive. So as some guy who dressed up as a cow last night is regaling anyone who will listen about how he scored the first and only goal in the new midwest soccer mecca, I'm still thinking about the building, which other than being in a walkable urban space looks amazing.

Though I don't think Mecca, if they decided to sell seats, would need to give away tickets to fill up on its first opening night. Which is one way of keeping the unintentional religious overtones going and of saying that while everything that has happened for Kansas City soccer in the last few years is wonderful, but by no means completes the job. With plenty of tickets still available for Tuesday's Gold Cup game, it's not like Kansas City is the new Soccer City USA, and it's not like a great great stadium is going to solve the essential question of how you get butts in the seats. Just ask Red Bull.

So, sure, you give pause as Nutmeg Radio noted on Twitter last night, and consider how far Kansas City especially but MLS as a whole has come over the years. And then you watch an awful soccer game, chastise a streaking cow, and go back to work. Because work, there always is, for all of us. It aint just death and taxes.

Increasingly, it's death, taxes, work, mother nature versus humanity, and nowadays things like, well, Google. Try to avoid them at your own risk or inability to settle an argument at the restaurant. What, you're gonna use Bing? That's hilarious.

Of all the interesting things I learned about Kansas City recently--more fountains than anyplace other than Rome, a sister sister of Seville, Spain--Google was the most fascinating to me. And of all the questions I asked, the one I could not get a straight answer to was about the company so great it became a verb.

We've seen the up and then down (and then up?) Google signage in Livestrong Park, seen Robb Heineman in the Google Fiber video announcing Kansas City as the recipient of a gigantic grant and tech project (he helped write the proposal). But there's very little known about exactly what the end result will be for the soccer team. Not that that stops speculative jersey mock ups.

I asked Robb Heineman point blank during my reporting--my last question of my last follow up--if Google was going to be a sponsor of the stadium, of the team, of the jersey even. Heineman said, "You know this; Google doesn't do that stuff. Now we're doing everything we can to solidify a partnership with Google around technology, and what we can do with the fiber network they are putting here in Kansas City. If that leads to us doing some co-branding of some various services or opportunities, that would be great, but that's not the primary thrust. It is how to innovate on top of the fiber network they are building."

Interactivity is already huge for sports and it's only going to get bigger. So what better way for a company like Google to test those waters than in a town they are already wiring up like The Matrix, in a brand new stadium that's probably the perfect size for a test run before shooting for bigger venues? I don't have the answer to that, which is why I think, even with team officials dancing around the questions, that Sporting and Google could end up putting American soccer on a whole other (Google) map.

I will now go back to refreshing my Twitter app until the news comes.

-Adam Spangler!/TIAS


Anonymous Anonymous said...

fyi: aol actually didn't buy the sporting news. sporting news is still its own publication.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Joe Leyba said...

You can buy a Google soccer jersey in their company store:

3:47 PM  
Blogger Sam said...


We stopped selling Members' Stand seats weeks ago. Those giveaways were by design to promote the membership model. You could have asked.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it really struck me how similar the place is to Cowboys stadium. right down to the lack of smoking section. I understand it's all a shrine to beating cancer but jeez

3:15 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

One man's promotion is another man's protection. Not like I'm the only one who's made that point...

3:20 PM  

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