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Stadium upgrades for Sporting Kansas City fans

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Food, drink, WIFI and more upgraded and an update on safe standing

The field looked great on media day
Thad Bell

Sporting Kansas City has spent some serious cash in the off season upgrading the team on the field, spending significantly more than they have ever before. Sporting KC’s owners also opened the check book for upgrades to Children’s Mercy Park in the off season.

A huge refresh in the stadium that fans will see and some that they won’t, but the club hopes will add to the overall experience. Technology upgrades at Children’s Mercy Park, including faster WiFi, (thank you) a new Sporting KC mobile app (that still has not been released) and the promise of more efficient ticket scanning to speed up gate entry times.

The have also installed new mother’s and sensory rooms to give families quiet, accommodating places to bring children.

Food is important

One of the complaints over the years was not enough local flavor. There has been some but there was need for more and was a frequent comment that the club received. Sporting KC listened to that feedback and worked with local establishments as they upgraded the in-stadium options.

Burgers, tacos and barbecue is the menu of my life so the updates definitely sound good and I hope to get to try some of the good stuff. Sadly they do not bring the good stuff to the press box or photographer work rooms but at least my family can enjoy.

From the press release:

· BRGR (Section 129): Locally renowned BRGR will serve up its signature burgers, traditional fries and tots, a premium chicken sandwich and the popular Beyond Burger, the first plant-based protein in the stadium.

· Taco Republic (South Stand Concourse): Famous for its “street-style” tacos, Taco Republic will operate out of its food truck and serve a plethora of popular items including tacos, chips, salsa, guacamole and margaritas.

· American Royal Barbecue (Section 127): A Kansas City tradition with decades of celebrated history, the American Royal will serve classic KC barbecue fan-favorites such as pulled pork, brisket and burnt end sandwiches plus new creations like the burnt end nachos with molasses baked beans, cheese and onion strings.

· Port Fonda: Nationally acclaimed for its authentic Mexican cuisine, Port Fonda will be prominently placed inside the newly renovated Wise Power Shield Club with a rotating menu that will include Port Fonda favorites like the chimichanga of the match, esquite asado and the Roselle Margarita.

· Parisi Coffee: A Kansas City-based artisan coffee roaster, Parisi will serve fans from its portable kiosk on the stadium concourse and in premium spaces throughout the venue. A primary component of the partnership will see Sporting and Parisi launch a unique line of coffee blends and unveil a special-edition shandy — a refreshing blend of coffee, lemonade and vanilla.

· J. Rieger & Co.: The revered local distillery will serve its signature products during matches at Children’s Mercy Park and at private events in the suite levels and Wise Power Shield Club. Sporting and J. Rieger & Co. have also unveiled a special collectible bottle of Rieger’s Kansas City Whiskey, exclusively available in Kansas City as of Feb. 20. The limited-edition label of Rieger’s Sporting Kansas City Whiskey celebrates their new partnership and “love of the city.”

The five other concession stand concepts are located throughout the stadium concourse, featuring unique themes, bold flavors and distinct signage:

· Brat & Brau (Section 101) — giant brats, giant pretzels, brat-chos and more

· Kickin’ Chicken (Section 114) — fried chicken sandwiches, popcorn chicken, curly fries and more

· World’s Kitchen (Section 117) — chicken and falafel curry bowls, wraps and more

· The Market (Section 119) — grab-and-go marketplace with subs, sandwiches, wraps, salads, protein bento boxes, cookies and more

· El Capitan presented by Corona (Section 122) — Nachos, tacos, empanadas, margaritas, Corona beer and more

There is also a Sporting Value Menu. It will not help you be “Sporting Fit” but will save some dollars if you need to feed the family some cheap (stadium cheap) food. There will be $5 hot dogs, nachos and pretzels and $4 popcorn available in the Budweiser Brew House and all concession stands but The Market.

Fans were able to sample a number of the new food items at the launch party and most of the feedback was positive. Media that attended media day this week was able to sample the burnt end sandwich, a chicken sandwich, brat-chos and kimchi tots.

The food critic in me had a mixed reaction. The burnt ends were decent, the chicken sandwich will hopefully be a bit better in reality but seemed like it was emulating a famous chicken sandwich chain.

The kimchi tots were tasty. I would have liked more and spicier kimchi. I admit I am picky when it comes to Korean food in general and kimchi specifically.

The brat-chos were stadium nachos with pieces of brat added. So if you like decent stadium nachos and brats, you will probably be okay with those.

The reason Sporting KC went with the American Royal concept instead of a specific well-known local restaurant is they could never make everyone happy. Being Kansas City, many of us are very picky when it comes to barbecue, almost tribal at times in our preferences. Leaving it a little generic but with the respected American Royal involved is probably a smart move.

No safe standing sections yet

With the number of new stadiums and new groups of supporters around the league, safe standing sections are becoming more common. LA and Miami (Ft. Lauderdale) are the latest to add safe standing sections.

The Cauldron section of Children’s Mercy Park is not as steep or deep as most of the stadiums but the topic does come up in discussions with fans.

“Nothing this year,” Sporting Kansas City President & CEO Jake Reid explained. “We looked at it. Just from where we were and the cost of it, it didn’t make a lot of sense. We had some good conversations with those guys. The interesting part, there’s a bunch of fans who don’t like it and a bunch of fans who do like it so we’re are trying to figure out the timing and how to do that stuff.”

“With everything else we prioritized it fell through the cracks, but it is definitely still front of mind conversation-wise. There is a lot of investment in the stadium that is not fan-forward when your house gets old that we have done and continue to do,” Reid continued. “The amount the owners have invested back in the stadium is close to what they invested in the team this year. Both are big investments and we will continue to do that.”