By Evan Ream
“We dreamed of a day where people would want to do this, not just getting so drunk that we couldn’t help but do it.”
– Sean Dane, de-facto Kansas City Cauldron leader
This is a story about an organization embracing its fans, just as much as it is about the fans themselves.
In the world of professional sports, there are a lot of “poor decision makers” (to say it in the nicest way possible) who call the shots.
Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Revolution sits 25.8 miles away from the city center of Boston and is not accessible by public transportation.
The New England Revolution has existed for 17 years.
On July 8, I attended the first-ever game at Gillette in which a bus was rented to transport fans from Boston to Foxborough.
The bus was organized by the Midnight Riders.
Beers are $13 dollars at Toronto FC games.
The fans buy their beers and sit in the team-operated supporters section where they don’t know who will show up each game due to the high amount of scalper’s who sell tickets in their sections.
Sporting Kansas City obtained two different liquor licenses when Livestrong Sporting Park opened last year so that it could sell beers at a regular stadium price as well as at a lower price in a bar that serves as the only way to enter the stands for their main supporters group: The Cauldron.
The beers cost $2.
The fans were asked for input when the stadium was being built.
The Cauldron helped save Sporting Kansas City, and Sporting Kansas City helped save The Cauldron.
In the mid-2000s, the then Kansas City Wizards were one of the most unstable franchises in MLS. Their owner, the late, great Lamar Hunt, wanted out. Hunt also owned the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas as well as the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.
Hunt sold the team to its current owners OnGoal, LLC (now Sporting Club) in August 2006. But the Wizards were struggling and drawing just four-figure crowds in the carnivorous Arrowhead Stadium, a 79,000-seat monstrosity designed for football.
The Cauldron’s weekly attendance wasn’t even in the triple digits. Moving the team or folding it seemed like a real possibility. But The Cauldron wouldn’t go down without a fight.
A few Cauldron members banded together with other members of the community to found the Heart of America Soccer Foundation, a grassroots organization whose mission statement was to keep the Wizards in Kansas City.
Something strange happened: people listened. The Wizards moved to Community America Ballpark in the Kansas side of the city. The crowds hovered around 10,000, but the intimacy of the stadium allowed The Cauldron and the rest of the support to grow.
The team secured a stadium deal, and in 2011 opened what is either the nicest or the second-nicest stadium in the league (depending on how you feel about Red Bull Arena).
The Wizards were rebranded into Sporting Kansas City, and the rest is history.
The Heart of America Soccer Foundation hasn’t updated its website since 2008; the battle has been won.
In addition to hosting 2,000 fans (or so the fire marshal says) each home game, The Cauldron has its own clothing line, complete with designer tags featuring The Cauldron’s logo.
They bought their own merchandise bus and painted it the same baby blue as Sporting’s home kits.
They bought my four friends and me lunch when I visited. And beer. And an unknown mixed drink that tasted suspiciously like straight vodka. It was blue of course.
Thanks to The Cauldron and Sporting working together, the north end can be heard singing about Kansas City’s famous barbeque on summer weekends.
Thanks to the Cauldron and Sporting working together, The Cauldron can afford to spend money on community outreach programs or help pay for the minor-league K.C. Athletics to travel to Orlando for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup like they did earlier this year.
Thanks to The Cauldron and Sporting working together, both entities still exist in 2012.