Sporting Kansas City and Livestrong Part Ways, with Both Sides Alleging Different Reasons, Neither of Which Is the One You’d Expect

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Both Sporting Kansas City and the Livestrong charitable foundation made separate announcements this week saying that they’ve terminated their naming-rights agreement for the MLS club’s stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, less than two years after the deal was struck.

According to Livestrong CFO Greg Lee, who spoke to Fox and ESPN, the decision was due to non-payment of funds by SKC, a detail he divulged while pretending not to divulge it:

“While we don’t talk about the specifics related to any of our partners, part of my role as the chief financial officer is to ensure compliance by our corporate partners. We strive to be great partners ourselves and expect the same from those we do business with. If a partner is struggling to meet the terms of our agreement, we do everything possible to reach a fair and reasonable compromise. If no compromise can be reached, as good stewards or our brand and mission, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end.”

On the other side of the dispute, Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman denied the club owed any money and expressed a disillusionment with the partnership:

“Our faith and trust in this partnership have been permanently damaged; therefore we are terminating our agreement with LIVESTRONG, effectively immediately. As a result of this decision, our stadium will now be referred to as Sporting Park. While we are ending this relationship, our support of the fight against cancer will endure. We look forward to introducing new initiatives to assist these efforts in Kansas City.”

In the entire exchange, there was only one, glancing reference to the yellow-shirted elephant in the room—the recent revelations about performance-enhancing drug use by Lance Armstrong, and the former cyclists’s own Oprah-administered confession. Here’s that reference, from Heineman:

“We are disappointed to learn Livestrong is deploying tactics designed to force us into an unacceptable arrangement, after months of good faith discussions in which we believed progress had been made. We were not expecting the foundation to treat a partner in this manner, especially given the tumultuous environment they have thrust us into over the past year—while we staunchly defended the mission of the foundation.”

That last “while we staunchly defended the mission of the foundation” has gotta hurt a little. But apparently, the timing is just coincidental. The dispute appears to be over money and the terms of the arrangement, and not the disgraced legacy of Armstrong.

But that can’t have helped, right?

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Livestrong Sporting Park Opens Tonight

And not a moment to soon for the home team. Sporting Kansas City were burdened with a 10-game road trip to start the season while workers finished up their $200-million soccer-specific stadium, and it was a rough ride.

They went 1-6-3 and sit dead last in the Eastern Conference on the night they finally open their brand-new home, which is sponsored by former cyclist Lance Armstrong‘s cancer-fighting organization.

Kansas City will also be without Craig Rocastle (Grenada), Roger Espinoza (Honduras), Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe), and Shavar Thomas (Jamaica) due to international duty—and first choice goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is unavailable due to illness.

Yes, it’s been a tough couple of months for SKC. But they can take heart in the boost they’ll surely get from the occasion, the crowd, and the fact that their opponents are the eighth-place Chicago Fire (1-4-7), who are just four points ahead of Kansas City in the standings despite having played two more games.

Whatever the challenges, though, it’s undoubtedly a must-win game for coach Peter Vermes’s team. As club CEO Robb Heineman told the league website:

“It’s a massive game. It’s the biggest game in the history of the franchise since we’ve owned it. It’s not MLS Cup. It’s not a US Open Cup final. But it’s right there, number three probably in the history of the franchise. We’ve got to win. Everybody knows that. It’s a big summer for us.”

Most of that summer will play out in the state-of-the-art confines of Livestrong Sporting Park, where 17 of Kansas City’s remaining 24 games will take place.

The field is natural grass, and the stadium has a capacity of 18,500, expandable to 25,000 if needed. There are luxury boxes, field level seats, and two massive HD video screens. The two-story Victory Suite contains a pizza oven where fans can pick their own ingredients, and a well-stocked wine cellar.

Membership in the team’s Sporting Club is free, and all those who join will have access to the Members’ Club section of the stadium, where they can get a beer, burger, and a bag of chips for $5.

SKC has sold more than 11,000 season tickets to the new venue.

Click here for a virtual tour of the stadium.

Tonight’s game is on ESPN2 at 10:00 p.m. ET.

Qatar Suggests “Artificial Cloud” to Cool 2022 World Cup Games (Really)

Faced with the problem of staging World Cup matches in 105-degree temperatures, Qatar/Cutter 2022 organizers have offered a series of potential solutions since winning the right to host last December.

First, they suggested stadiums would be air-conditioned. Then they entertained the idea of moving the entire tournament to the winter months. Now, though, we can all rest easy, because the problem has been solved: a Qatar University engineering department group has unveiled designs for  ‘artificial clouds’ to hover above stadiums and cool them during match play.

The ‘clouds’ will be constructed of light carbon materials, filled with helium, and come equipped with four solar powered (insert no end of jokes here) engines that will enable them to move by remote control between sun and pitch to provide shade.

Now, it’s the end of a long day here at the BP World HQ, so our judgment may not be at 100% capacity right now, but this is absurd, right? If it’s 105 degrees in the sun, how much relief will some artificial cloud cover provide? It’ll knock it down to a refreshing 101, at best.

Also, what if one of the things failed during a game and crashed down on the field? One result could be, as a commenter over at The Spoiler put it, “Then England’s chances to win the World Cup slightly improve.” But others could be catastrophic, obviously.

Then again, it might be futile to question this or speculate about it; we wouldn’t be surprised to wake up tomorrow and find out it was all a clever hoax.

Read more about it here.

Sporting Kansas City Donates Stadium Name to Livestrong Charity

According to The Kansas City Star, Lance Armstrong, the soon-to-be-completely-unmasked former cyclist and cancer survivor, had an interesting reaction when Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City approached him about naming their new stadium after his nonprofit organization, Livestrong.

“You mean that sport where they fall down, roll around, and act like they’re [injured]?” said the most famous practitioner of that sport where they fill themselves to the eyeballs with pharmaceuticals, shave their legs, and ride (possibly motorized) bicycles.

But when he homed in on the details of the deal, Armstrong’s skepticism vanished. Sporting Kansas City was not only offering the naming rights to its $200-million soccer complex for free, the club also proposed donating a portion of its stadium revenues—a minimum of $7.5 million for the six-year arrangement—to Livestrong, which has raised more than $400 million for cancer research since 1997.

Armstrong and Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman both recognized a sensible deal when they saw one, and agreed to the partnership, which was announced in Kansas City on Tuesday.

Livestrong Sporting Park, as the stadium was christened on Tuesday, will open on June 9, when Sporting KC hosts the Chicago Fire.

The arrangement is unique in North American sports, as no other venues in MLS—or in the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB—are named after a charity.

Our Armstrong crankiness aside, this is a terrific move by Sporting Kansas City and an excellent partnership. It gives both sides a boost in profile and, as James Starritt wrote on the SKC website SportingTimes.net:

“A portion of everything we spend at the stadium will trickle down to Livestrong, which in turn will help direct and fund cancer research, awareness and educational programs.

My football team and I are going to save lives.”

Cheers to all involved—even the guy who somehow managed to completely dominate the most PED-soaked sport in the world while remaining “totally clean” himself.