Sporting Kansas City and Soccer Development: an interview with David Ficklin

Sporting Park: The stadium glue that holds a franchise together (photo: turnerconstruction.com)

Sporting Park: The stadium glue that holds a successful franchise together. (photo: turnerconstruction.com)

Back in March, OTF contributor Blaize Diaz traveled west across the prairie to take in the Fire’s 0-0 draw at Sporting KC. After the match, Blaize joined Sporting Kansas City’s Vice President of Development David Ficklin in the Members’ Club to talk soccer-specific stadiums, Bridgeview, MLS growth, and doing it right in KC…

In honor of this week’s MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City, OTF brings you an insightful interview that sheds light on Sporting Kansas City’s extraordinary turnaround and digs deep into the club’s model for sustained success. What follows is sage advice and candid talk from a man who’s been slinging soccer in America for almost two decades.

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Sporting Kansas City Vice President of Development David Ficklin (DF) on his experience working in Major League Soccer:

DF: “I’ve either been working for a team or working to help teams build stadiums since our league came to be. I spent three seasons with San Jose when we launched Major League Soccer, and then I went to the San Francisco Bay Area to work for the Women’s World Cup in 1999. Shortly thereafter, I came to HOK Sport in Kansas City to help start their event division, and then moved over to their soccer division a couple months later.

On building a soccer-specific stadium in Sporting Park…

DF: “It’s important to remember that it’s incredibly difficult to get a soccer stadium built. It still is. I remember when Peter Wilt was trying to get the stadium done in Chicago, and you look at DC United who have been in the league since the inaugural season, and the Revolution the same, and people can’t understand why they don’t have stadiums. They don’t understand how hard it is. 

Sporting Park was our fourth attempt to build a stadium in Kansas City. There was an effort that we worked on in late 2001/early 2002. Kansas City’s mayor appointed a task force to study the possibility of a soccer stadium in Johnson County, a very affluent county just south of Kansas City, KS. That effort fell apart in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the downturn in the economy that followed.

Then, there was an effort to build a stadium in Kansas in 2005 that was going to be surrounded by youth soccer fields — a component of the plan that went up for election and lost. The 2005 effort was made by our guys, but I don’t think ownership of the team had changed hands yet.

The current ownership group bought the team in the Fall of 2006, and I joined the organization in January of 2007. We immediately started working on a stadium plan on the Missouri side near a place called Banister Mall, which was once the largest and most popular mall in the entire Kansas City metropolitan area.

We worked with a firm by the name of 360 Architecture on a stadium design for that location, and it was going to be a complete revitalization of an area that had tragically degenerated. What was once KC’s most popular mall had turned into an area of almost 2 million square feet of vacant retail space. As such, it was a project we were able to get approved at all levels. All told, the project involved about $700 million of public money and almost $400 million of private money, so we were talking about a massive revitalization of the area, one that’s probably still the best in the KC metro area in terms of transportation access. 

When the financial markets crashed at the end of 2007 that project died because it was based upon sales tax revenue that would be generated by new retail space. At that point we had an offer to come build where we’re at right now, and so on our fourth try, we got it. Fifteen years ago, the area on which Sporting Park resides was just small farms. Now, just across the street, Nebraska Furniture Mart alone generates over $500 million dollars of revenue a year, and is the largest tourism attraction the state of Kansas.

All in all, my point is that it’s incredibly hard to build a soccer stadium. Toyota Park opened seven years ago when it was even harder because there was less proof of concept. Was it MLS’s fourth stadium? First was Crew Stadium, then the Home Depot Center, and I don’t remember which came first, Dallas or Chicago?

Blaize Diaz (BD): I believe Dallas’s (in Frisco, TX) came first.

DF: “So it was early. There was no amazing Seattle or incredible Portland or Toronto yet. Back in those early days of the league we were beggars not choosers. It wasn’t like there were six or seven different municipalities putting real estate and development packages forward for the Fire to come and choose the best. 

In the Fire’s case, you actually had a municipality that wanted to first fund a portion of the stadium, and in the end, during the design process, Bridgeview decided to 100% own the stadium. Back then, it was unheard of for an MLS team to not have to pay at all for a soccer-specific stadium. Precedent was that Lamar Hunt paid for Crew Stadium out of his own pocket, almost the entirety of the Home Depot Center was paid for by AEG, and Dallas was paid for primarily by Hunt Sports. With the latter, the local school district paid for some too.

So, for anyone who complains that some of the older soccer-specific stadiums are in the wrong location, hindsight is 20-20. We as a league, as clubs, didn’t have a choice back then.”

BD: As Sporting KC’s Vice President of Development, what does your job entail and what are some of your daily duties?

DF: “On a daily basis, I pay attention to every square inch of Sporting Park and think about how we can make our fans’ experience better. I do this by looking at the little details, the big picture, and all things in between.

We have not sold out all of our games in a single season yet. We didn’t sell out every game in 2012, but managed to for 16 of our 17 regular-season games. We sold out the opener, we didn’t sell out the second game, and then we sold out everything including the U.S. Open Cup final and the MLS playoffs. 

You know, supply and demand is a very fine balance. Right now, we have it perfectly. We want a full stadium where there is a demand. People want to come here and if they want to buy, they need to buy season tickets so they can secure the seats they love. We have over 12,000 season ticket holders, and have capped season ticket sales. For this organization, where a couple of years ago we were playing in a minor league baseball stadium and we had a hard time selling 5,000 tickets total, it’s a wonderful achievement.

We played in the baseball stadium for three seasons. It was so difficult. The only thing that kept everyone going was the light at the end of the tunnel, and the knowledge that we were going to be build Sporting Park. We had to tell people, ‘You gotta believe! It’s not good here now, but there is something incredible coming.’

Fortunately, because of the baseball stadium’s location, you had to drive by Sporting Park’s construction site, so people knew. They could see this thing rising up out of the ground, they could see the steel forming and the roof being framed, and they knew there was something better coming. Folks thought, ‘It might be awful at the ballpark, but there’s something great just around the corner.’

We could probably sell another 5-6,000 seats right now, but this is a long-term proposition. And if we built it right now, there are so many people in the Kansas City metro area who have never been to a game, who still don’t even like soccer, but who also don’t know how fun it is to come here. So, we want to have a couple more years of people experiencing Sporting Park, falling in love with the game, discovering us, perhaps build a nice strong season ticket holder wait list, and then when the time is right, and only then, we’ll think about expansion.

On the flipside, Toronto had a couple of really phenomenal years selling tickets, then they expanded and added a couple thousand seats. However, they have not had success on the field and are hurting because they might have gotten on the wrong side of that supply and demand balancing act.

I spend most of my time with ownership talking about what we can do better, or how we can add more seats or different seating elements within the stadium. We introduced two new seating areas this season. There’s a huge demand for premium stuff, for something a little bit extra, for companies to get a couple of seats to entertain in.

We are always talking about every space.  I think some teams get a stadium built and then they just go into sell mode. We’ve never been like that. We think about a space. If we expand a space, what will the effect on the fans be? How can we add new and better elements to a space, keep it interesting, and keep people wanting to come?

There was a foolish journalist (I say foolish because that’s the kindest word I can think of), who put out a rating of MLS stadiums before Sporting Park even opened and downgraded us because we weren’t in an urban area. I thought, ‘if that’s not the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard.’ To think that there is only one model that works, that’s ignorant because what we’ve got works in Kansas City. We are different than other cities. We love our cars. We have more highway miles per capita than any city.”

BD: By contrast, in the city of Chicago public transportation is important and necessary. For many folks it’s the easiest (and perhaps only) way to get around.

“Bridgeview is a car ride. There is no direct light-rail, L, Metro, T, or anything else to Toyota Park. In Kansas City, we have our cars, fantastic highways, and love to drive. So, I’m not convinced that a downtown stadium would have even worked here. If we were in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, it might have. I think a lot about what that site might have been. As an architect, I like to think that I always pay close attention to urban design and planning. I’ve seen a lot of stadiums and arenas go into downtown areas and completely revitalize them.

Soccer only plays perhaps 30 times a year. If we can get 30 athletic events on our field in a year, we’ve done an incredible job. Baseball has 81, and more with postseason play. Arenas can have at least 80 sports nights a year with hockey and basketball. The Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City goes gangbusters with concerts and other events because we don’t have an anchor tenant in the NHL or NBA. Regardless, it’s is one of the ten most successful arenas on the planet, but the downtown area and entertainment district around it is still suffering. We taxpayers here pay $12 million a year to make up the shortfall on the municipal bonds.

Just because a soccer-specific stadium isn’t in a downtown, urban area doesn’t mean it won’t work. For Kansas City, it works. For Chicago, unfortunately, it doesn’t. Remember, the land upon which Sporting Park sits was a shopping and entertainment destination before the club got here.

BD: That was one of the things I first noticed when I arrived at Sporting Park. Bridgeview doesn’t really have much in terms of being a destination for anything outside of Toyota Park.

DF: “Yes. My point is that there is no magic formula that you stamp and say, ‘this works, this works, this works.’ It’s about understanding the peculiarities of each city and building the stadium in the right place for that particular city. Some places got it right, and some places didn’t. In hindsight, perhaps Chicago and Dallas didn’t. 

BD: Sporting Park’s design is beautiful. It’s an aesthetically pleasing stadium. How much of an impact so you think this has on drawing fans to it?

DF: “People were talking about this stadium when it was just  a hole in the ground. As soon as the steel went up, folks said ‘Wow, have you seen that?’ As soon as the façade went up, it was, ‘Wow, have you seen that?!’ 

The roof starts low and it spirals up. It implies movement, and the fins on the outside imply a player’s motion. Everyone talked about the physical features of the stadium before it opened, before a game was ever played here. This chatter, this interest in an innovative design, went a long way to change attitudes. Folks were relieved to say, ‘We’re not playing at Community America Ballpark anymore.’ 

You know, we fussed over every detail and we spent so much time talking about what would be necessary to get us to the top. Nobody in Kansas City had ever seen soccer played in an appropriate soccer stadium here. It was either too big at Arrowhead, or too small at Community America Ballpark. And on top of that, we knew we had an opportunity to design what we thought was the ideal stadium to grow the game, to make it intimate.” Sporting Park is a tremendous success.

BD: Yes, Sporting Park appears to not be too big or too small, and is clearly designed to create good spaces inside for the spectator.

DF: We spent so much time talking about the types of people who might want to come to a club like ours. Now, we know them, and spend our time thinking about the amenities they want and how to deliver them. We call this ‘Design by Experience.’ 

If you design the experience, the spaces take their shape from that. You don’t just say, ‘Okay, we want 32 suites.’ You ask: ‘How do we lay them out? Do we have them on one level all the way around, or do we have two levels?’ We knew selling suites in Kansas City would be a tough proposition because the area has a newly renovated Chiefs stadium, a newly renovated Royals stadium, the brand new Sprint Center, plus KU, Missouri, and K-State basketball and football. We knew there were a lot of premium seating opportunities out here. But, we knew there were people who would be interested in soccer suites, so we thought about who they might be and what amenities they would want.

Overall, we asked ourselves, ‘What do our supporters want?’ Then, we talked to them and our owner asked, ‘what’s important to you?’ So now, at Sporting Park, you’re sitting in the spiritual home of soccer in Kansas City. It was a team effort.

Our club exists for the loudest, most passionate fans of the sport, and we gave them an authentic soccer stadium. We also gave something to soccer fans who never wanted to come see MLS because they thought it wasn’t good enough compared to the soccer they love, whether it’s the Spanish, Italian, or the English leagues. We gave them a proper home, a place to say ‘Yeah, I belong here. This is a real soccer stadium.’ Sporting Park itself helped these folks become fans of Major League Soccer. 

To us, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing there are people passionately in love with the game who wouldn’t come support an MLS team in their own backyard. But now those people come, so hopefully there is a home here for everyone, whether they are casual fans looking for a fun day or night out, or people who live and die for soccer.”

BD: Toyota Park has two premium spaces, correct? 

DF: “There is a club (Stadium Club) at Toyota Park I was in, but it has no view of the field. And we actually talked a lot about that club, using it as a reference for what we did not want to do. The club has no view of the pitch, and it feels very claustrophobic. However, the Fire has since built the Second Star Club, an upgraded premium facility with an excellent field view.

Here, we talked a lot about floor to ceiling height for our Shield Club. We’ve got a very deep, long club that holds 1,000-1,500 people, yet it still feels intimate. We make it feel cozy, but not claustrophobic. We have glass on both sides.

BD: The natural light does help with the atmosphere. 

DF: “Indeed. In this space, even if you cannot see the entire game, you have a psychological connection to it.  So all the long debates, discussions, arguments, and philosophical circles we’d run around led us to this. All in all, with Sporting Park we hoped we could change the face of our city and create an environment that would grow the game.”

Sporting Park's Shield Club (photo: Blaize Diaz)

Sporting Park’s Shield Club (photo: Blaize Diaz)

BD: How sustainable is the current modus operandi for Sporting Park? Are you going to keep the same principles you’ve established, or do you think you’ll have to adjust on the fly and try new ideas as time progresses? 

DF: “Our owners are all entrepreneurs, and so this organization is entrepreneurial in all aspects; meaning, we are not afraid to make mistakes. We make mistakes. We make a lot of them. We make them because we are trying to do something better. 

For example: How we can get better food in the Shield Club? How we can make it easier to get it? The Shield Club has a lot of corporate tickets, which means many folks are being brought inside it for the first time. They don’t know the layout, and we’re always studying how they react to it. We’re always asking: How we can make this a fantastic experience for the both the first-time visitor and the repeat visitor?”

BD: Do you survey your season ticket holders?

DF: “We do, and we observe them all the time. We go back and watch videotape from the security cameras. For example, we have a bunch of cameras in the Shield Club and we’ll watch what lines do and use stopwatches to time the transaction times to know if we’re good enough, and if not, how we can do it better.

We’re always thinking about how we can make it better off the field because we won’t always be winning on the field. That’s the nature of sports business. Someday, a time may come when we aren’t winning, but we still want people to have the best experience in the city.  We hope people will want to come out here, regardless of the results on the field.”

BD: Your comment reminds me of the Chicago Cubs. It’s been over 100 years since they’ve won the World Series, but folks still come out and have a great time at every game.

DF: “One of our owners (our CEO, Robb Heineman) speaks so fondly of his time, right out of college, when he worked in Chicago, went to Cubs games, and sat in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. It’s just that atmosphere, and trying to create atmospheres like it, that stays with people for the rest of their lives.

BD: Having a full stadium in an intimate setting gets everyone involved and emotionally invested. Once that happens, folks get attached and the experience becomes more meaningful.

DF: “Yes. And once someone is emotionally invested, he/she becomes a loyal fan.”

BD: And you’re always striving to reach the people who aren’t yet at that point?

DF: Yes, because they will come back. They’ll want to wear our gear. They’ll want to come to multiple games. And if they want to watch soccer here, they’ll want to travel to, for example, Chicago to watch us as well.

BD: MLS is growing in the aggregate. However, attendance figures have gone up for several clubs while others seem to be holding steady down low. Sporting Kansas City rocketed from the bottom to the top in a very short period of time. Where do you see the league in 5, 10, 20 years? Commissioner Don Garber made clear he wants MLS to be one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. What are your thoughts on that?

DF: “That’s a good question. I think what I wanted has already been achieved. I can remember my second year working for the team in San Jose when we went on an executive retreat. I’ll always remember when the general manager said, ‘If you could choose your life, what would it have been?’ This was a ‘getting to know each other’ question.  I said I would have wanted to have been born in a country that loves this game as much as I do.

In Kansas City, I’m there now.  People love our club. We thought in maybe three, four, or five years it would get there. Astoundingly, it took four or five games. It’s all happened so much faster than we could have imagined.”

BD: You mentioned there are still so many people in Kansas City who are not soccer fans, who are not there yet. Do you see them as a market you’re still trying to attract?

DF: “Of course. We know there are many folks out there who haven’t yet been to Sporting Park because there are over two million folks in the Kansas City metro area. We think we’ve created a really fun experience out here, and we are Kansas Citians. This stadium was built by Kansas Citians for Kansas Citians, so we want everyone to come out and see it! Everyone doesn’t have to like soccer, but I think most folks may be willing to try. 

If every fifth or even every twentieth person in and around Kansas City comes out and says, ‘Wow! I really like that!’ we’re in business — long-term business. And I know that happens because there are so many people who have come out here for whatever reason, and every game people say, “You know what?  I’m a season ticket holder now!’ or ‘A couple years ago, I didn’t even like soccer, but my boyfriend, my girlfriend, my boss, my co-worker, my friend, etc., brought me to a game three years ago when you opened the stadium and I fell in love with it. Now I have season tickets!’ I hear these stories over and again.”

BD: Do you advertise in downtown Kansas City, Missouri to market yourselves to those people?

DF: “Always. Absolutely. We have billboards and an outdoor campaign. We partner with the top sports radio station, 810 AM too. They broadcast our games. We have English and Spanish radio broadcasts.”

BD: The Fire only has a Spanish radio broadcast. How long have you been broadcasting games on the radio in both languages?

DF: “They picked up games last year and this year.” 

BD: OK, so it’s a recent media addition.

DF: “Yes. But remember, we went from almost nothing — not even a blip on the radar of people’s consciousness — to being valuable enough programming that a major local sports talk radio station now broadcasts our games.”

BD: Many Kansas Citians regard the Sporting re-brand as the area’s most amazing success story of any business — not just in sports business — of the past 30 years. The MLS franchise went from Arrowhead Stadium to Community America Ballpark, basically flat lined, and then went to the top. Fundamentally, how did that happen?

DF: “There’s a phrase out there called ‘supporters culture’. We have absolutely embraced this idea. For example, as we conduct this interview, we’re sitting in a club designed for the lowest price ticket holder in the stadium. I don’t know of another club in this country, let alone the world that’s done this, a club that built a premium space and devotes its valuable real estate to people who pay almost nothing for their ticket. The space is heated on a cold day like today and air-conditioned in the summer.  When the weather’s good, we open four roll-up garage doors near the exit, and two that face the pitch.”

Typically, we will reach out to visiting supporters and invite them into this space after the game.  Usually, we’ll have a little ceremony where we’ll ask if they would like to leave one of their scarves with us, and we’ll give them one of our scarves to take back with them. A couple of them will hang their scarves here and we’ll take a picture of them with it.

All are welcome in these friendly confines. (photo: Blaize Diaz)

All are welcome inside these friendly confines. (photo: Blaize Diaz)

BD: If you had to give MLS an age other than its actual age (18), what would it be and why?

DF: “Twelve, because a twelve year-old is at a time in his life where he’s no longer a child and not yet an adult. He’s not yet a teen. Teens have attitudes. MLS has gone through its childhood. And now, echoing Commissioner Garber, “We want to play with the big kids.” We want to hold our own against the big kids and win. That’s the challenge ahead of us in our (conceptual) teenage years.”

BD: How many employees do you have working on game day?

DF: “Close to 700.”

BD: For an 18,500 seat stadium?

DF: “When you think of all the parking attendants, shuttle bus drivers, ticket takers, ushers, guest services folks, and front and back of the house food concessions workers, our staff is close to 700 on game day, yes.”

BD: Tell me about the Sporting Park pitch.

DF: “We have to bring the bluegrass out of its dormancy early. If you know sports turf, you know that bluegrass does not like the heat we have here during the summers. In Kansas City, we live in the hardest region to grow sports turf because we endure both extreme heat and cold.

If you’re north of here you play on bluegrass. If you’re south of here you play on Bermuda grass. Our season starts early, and Bermuda doesn’t come out of its dormancy until it gets hot in late June. 

BD: And the bluegrass it goes to sleep fast when it’s hot and dry.

DF: “Yes. It just shrivels up and wants to stop living. It’s difficult to maintain, so we thought long and hard because we knew the MLS season calendar was going to be longer. Now, it goes from early March until early December.

We get the grass green in the spring and keep it green late. In our first year, we had a playoff game against the Colorado Rapids where it poured rain, so we reversed the pumps on the field heating system, which works by injecting gas-heated air into the drainage lines. We reversed the pumps and sucked the water out. We had a pseudo monsoon and could still play.

The field is a living organism we monitor 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  I think we have 16 moisture monitors, and our groundskeepers are constantly monitoring the temperatures on their mobile devices and deciding whether to turn the sprinklers on or off, depending on the weather. You can’t just combat heat with too much water. If you do, the bluegrass will start to mold. It will get a fungus. It’s a fine balance.” 

On rivalries…

DF: “When is Chicago going to come here and try to play soccer?’ To build a rivalry and just sit back and play that pathetic game [it played on March 16th]…We have geography now.

BD: Well, the Fire has the Brimstone Cup with Dallas, and the club continues to bolster its rivalry with Columbus.

DF: “Dallas hasn’t won anything worthwhile to be a rival of anyone’s. It’s frustrating, because part of this show ultimately comes down to what happens on the field, and when a team [like the Fire] comes in here, just sits back, and doesn’t want to even play, well, it’s bad for the show. And frankly, it’s bad for the sport.

If we are to grow this sport, we have to get away from teams playing like that. We need to get away from the teams that just say, ‘oh, I’m going to play for the draw and try to nick one on the counter.’” I think it’s bad for the game when teams do that. 

The question I want to know is, ‘What’s next for Chicago?’ They’re in a stadium that might not be in the right location, owned by a municipality that’s hurting financially. What’s going to happen? Is the stadium interesting enough to people that if you put a big time player in there and the Fire started winning, more people would want to come out? 

BD: Chicago is an amazing international destination. Although, having a stadium out in Bridgeview seems to limit that potential, that diverse market in the city. Also, the Fire doesn’t appear to have an executive in a position like yours.

DF: “Most teams don’t. It’s a rarity.”

BD: But it seems like someone in a position like yours could play a vital role in helping to provide direction and ideas for building a club.

DF: “We think so. You know, I worry about Chicago. I worry about Dallas. I worry about Chicago a lot. Clubs like these have stadiums and a lot of money invested at the municipal level or by the club, and as luck would have it, they’re not in the right locations.

BD: There were other locations out there when the search was on for Chicago’s soccer-specific stadium that had better transportation options. Some locations were certainly more costly, but the public transportation options were better.

DF: “We’ve created something where it’s cool to come out to Sporting Park. We have a lot of young people in their teens and early twenties who love this team and love the stadium. It’s a cool place to be.

I worry about Bridgeview. What would it take to make Bridgeview a cool destination, a place where young people can forge lasting memories? Odds are these kids played the sport at one time or another in their life. When we started this league, we had to try to convince everyone of the legitimacy of our game. Now, with young people, we no longer have to because Major League Soccer has been around for most or all of their lives.”

BD: Looking at the youth level, it is such an important age for growing the sport. The Fire organization has done a great job in expanding its number of youth teams. They have gone from several hundred youth players to now over 10,000 across seven different states.

DF: “Which is phenomenal, but you need that spiritual home. Those 10,000 kids need to know the top of the Pyramid they play in is Toyota Park. Whether it’s aspirations of ‘that’s where I want to go to watch games,’ or ‘that’s where I want to play someday, on that pitch.'”

BD: Going back to Bridgeview being a destination (or lack thereof), there isn’t much of anything in terms of destinations outside the stadium. Sure, there are a couple of good places to eat, but there isn’t much beyond that.

DF: “I care about Chicago. When the Fire played in Naperville, I designed the temporary modifications to North Central College’s stadium. For a very short time, I was their architect. I thought Naperville was a great place. When an MLS team leaves its soccer-specific stadium for another municipality and a new stadium, then we will have hit ‘21’ as an age for MLS. We will have become an adult.

I have people stop me and say, ‘I remember when this was so and so’s farm, and we would have never thought that so much could happen out here, and ‘I’m so proud of my little town and what we have here now with a world-class soccer stadium, a NASCAR track, and all of this development.’ 

BD: This last comment may be a bit nit-picky, but I’ve always been curious why Toyota Park decided to go with blue seats when everyone is wearing Fire red. That just makes the empty seats, especially when you see them on television, stand out like a sore thumb.

DF: “You know, I’ve always wondered about that. You’ll notice in Sporting Park, we’re so focused on the psychology of the color and making it seem like one big Blue Hell. Any piece of concrete that faces the field is blue. We painted all our concrete because I was so tired of looking at American stadiums that had these big blank concrete field walls. It makes such a difference when you paint your concrete, but costs a lot because you’ve got to repaint it every year. The psychology of color is powerful.  

We had a saying when we were designing Sporting Park: ‘When you’re in, you’re in!’ Meaning when you’re in that bowl, all of your senses are focused on the game. As such, we thought long and hard about how to create that stage.

There were a couple of stadiums we looked at when we were designing this stadium as examples of what we did not want to do. For example, we did not want an open end because it sucks all the energy out of the stadium. I don’t know if you noticed, but our south end is general admission family, and they were starting cheers too and waving flags. We need that energy behind both goals.

BD: Well sir, I must get going. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking with you. I learned a lot.

DF: “It was my pleasure to talk to you. Come back when it’s a little warmer!”

****

OTF wishes to thank Sporting Kansas City’s David Ficklin for his time and candor. Also, credit due to OTF’s Blaize Diaz for conducting a fine interview. Cheers fellas.

(photo: Blaize Diaz)

(photo: Blaize Diaz)

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