It was in July of 2010 that Sporting Club chief executive officer Robb Heineman first mentioned the idea of rebranding the Kansas City Wizards. Some fans supported the proposal, some despised it. Many more couldn't care less.
But fast forward to the present and the story has been well documented. Since the rebrand, Sporting Kansas City has captured the MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Sporting Park has been called one of America's "best sporting experiences," selling out 36-straight league matches, including two at fire-marshal capacity this past year. The stadium has also hosted two United States Men's National Team World Cup Qualifiers and the MLS All-Star Game against AS Roma.
Indeed, the club has not only found its place in the Kansas City sports scene, it's headlined it. The Kansas City Star's readers voted the team's MLS Cup victory over Real Salt Lake the "biggest sports story of 2013" this past December, well ahead of the Kansas City Chief's turnaround under head coach Andy Reid.
The success both on the field and off — championships and media columns — has certainly surpassed the expectations of many, but Heineman says complacency isn't about to set in, adding that the club has goals that have yet to be met.
"I don't think we're going to allow complacency to set in," Heineman said. "Although we've won a championship, we haven't really achieved all of our goals which is to be a consistently contending championship team. Consistency is over a long period of time, it's not over one year. I think winning a championship creates some tradition but what we are here to do is make that occur over the long term."
And with the MLS preseason less than two weeks away, Sporting Kansas City will have a chance to test their consistency in what may shape up to be the club's busiest year in its 17-year history.
"I think we have got to keep it going. It's continuing the sellout streak. It's doing well in CONCACAF Champions League, which is going to be a huge challenge for us this year. And then defending a championship is one of the toughest things to do in sports. I think this year will be a very compelling year out at Sporting Park. For us, we're going to continue to try to improve upon the fan experience and do things that allow fans to think that the experience at Sporting Park is one that's different and really special."
But there are still those waiting for the setback, the slide that's plagued the Kansas City Royals for nearly three decades now and the Chiefs since their last playoff victory in 1993. However, Heineman and company are being held accountable by none other than themselves and the scene prior to 2011.
"We make no mistake about where we were and where we've come to. I think, for those of us that were around in some of those days that were a little leaner than they are today, it's something that we'll never forget."
And as more and more articles come out praising the club's successful rebrand in this renaissance period of soccer in Kansas City, Sporting Kansas City will continue to thank its fans for their support by putting a winning product on the field — a championship one at that.
"I think we appreciate what Kansas City has done for our brand and how it's risen over the course of the last couple of years. And we understand exactly where we are in the context of the sports landscape here in Kansas City and appreciate that, as well. We control what we do and we're trying to do that at a championship level."