Seated in front of five renderings of the new soccer-specific stadium destined for Kansas City’s Berkley Riverfront area, Angie and Chris Long outlined their reasons for building the first dedicated venue for a National Women’s Soccer League team in their hometown.
In a news conference assembled at the Port KC’s Berkley Riverfront offices, they talked Tuesday afternoon about doing something that’s right for the community.
Kansas City’s NWSL team, led by the Longs and co-owner Brittany Matthews, announced that the club is building an 11,000-seat, $70 million stadium along the south side of the Missouri River.
The announcement comes a few weeks after team officials announced their intent to construct a $15 million training facility on the north side of the river, in Riverside.
Both facilities will be entirely privately financed through the team’s ownership group, the owners reiterated Tuesday.
“We’ve got assurances, for sure, on that,” Chris Long said when asked to confirm that none of the costs associated with construction of the stadium would be shouldered by taxpayers.
“Our other day-job is a firm called Palmer Square Capital Management, where that’s what we do,” he continued, “(We) invest and finance it so we have a leg up, relative to most of our peers in this equation.”
The club hopes to break ground on the project in the summer or early fall of 2022 and begin playing in the stadium in time for the 2024 NWSL season.
KC NWSL played this year’s home games, during its inaugural season in the league, at Legends Field in Kansas City, Kan., and will spend the next two seasons playing home matches at Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City’s home stadium in KCK.
Details about the new stadium weren’t the only items discussed Tuesday. Co-owner Brittany Matthews said the club plans to unveil its new long-term branding — a permanent name for the team — during its Saturday evening season finale against the OL Reign, an opponent from the Pacific Northwest.
By providing their own financing for the new stadium, the Longs believe it will help revitalize the riverfront area as opposed to creating a burden for the city.
The team signed a 50-year lease for Parcel 8 in the Berkley Riverfront area. Parcel 8 is a 7.08-acre chunk of land that sits north of Berkley Parkway and west of Interstate 29 on the south side of the river.
Kansas City NWSL leased the land from Port KC, a Missouri port authority in charge of transportation, logistics and revitalization of the Kansas City riverfront area.
“The goals for reclaiming our long-neglected riverfront have been bold but clear: develop a connected, accessible, vibrant and diverse neighborhood,” said Port KC president and CEO Jon Stephens.
The new stadium will arrive as the KC Streetcar line is extended north from its current City Market stop.
Angie Long said she sees room for expansion in the stadium, as well as the ability to hold future events, such as concerts and other sporting events — soccer and otherwise.
Plans call for the new stadium’s stands to be built in a horseshoe shape that opens to the river. Angie Long said the open area, on the river-side of the stadium, could eventually be filled in with more seating, as could the corners.
Such eventual renovations might one day double the stadium’s capacity, she said.
“Being in a sold-out stadium is just such a fun experience,” she said. “You want it to be the right-sized for that.
“But we’re obviously really constructive on the league and women’s soccer and the growth of it, and so you don’t want to get stuck in a footprint that doesn’t allow you to grow as the league grows.”
The club plans to rent out the stadium for non-KC NWSL events.
“We really view this as a community asset,” Chris Long said. “We are certainly going to be consulting advisers like (KC Sports Commission president and CEO) Kathy Nelson and others as to ways in which we can fulfill that community mission and make one plus one equal three.”