SWIFT CURRENT: Construction of the new Kansas City Current women’s pro soccer stadium has progressed quickly after work began in October. The building opens next spring. (Don Muret/Staff)

Anchor for reviving KC riverfront

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The Kansas City Current marked another milestone in their relatively short journey to build the first stadium designed specifically for a women’s pro sports team, installing the final steel beam for a building that opens in the spring of 2024.

The Current are part of the National Women’s Soccer League. In some ways, Wednesday’s topping off ceremony, which took place 252 days after shovels hit the dirt, was typical of these affairs across the sports and entertainment industry, full of glad-handing politicians and their supporters extolling the virtues of facility development and its benefits to the community.

On a steamy afternoon along the Missouri River a short drive from downtown Kansas City, there was no shortage of pomp and circumstance, but in this case, there was a feeling that the event stood for more than just another photo opportunity for elected officials, Current owners Chris and Angie Long and their constituents.

LONG VIEW: Kansas City Current owners Chris and Angie Long spoke at the topping off ceremony. (Don Muret/Staff)

It started with the Longs feeding a BBQ lunch to hundreds of construction workers under a big tent before the official ceremony took place, which was punctuated by cries of “KC Baby!,” the Current’s tagline displayed on city bus wraps.

The team’s teal-colored roving merchandise truck stood by, selling hats and T-shirts for a Current brand that’s taken the city by storm. As it stands now, demand for season tickets has exceeded the stadium’s 11,500 capacity.

Supporters signed the final beam before it was taken across the street and hoisted by a crane into place as part of the building’s infrastructural framework.

In addition to the stadium’s significance for the future of women’s sports, the $117 million venue, designed by Generator Studio and built by JE Dunn and Monarch, a local woman-owned contractor, stands as a beacon for development for a piece of the city that has long been neglected beneath the highways that hover above the Berkley Riverfront property.

Down the street, Origin KC, a $30 million boutique hotel is under construction. It’s expected to open in March, about the same time as the soccer stadium. The hotel joins two apartment complexes that have opened over the past six years, with more development expected as the stadium surges to completion.

STEEL CITY: The final steel beam is put into place for the new Kansas City Current women’s pro soccer stadium. (Don Muret/Staff

“Every milestone is particularly special, because it hasn’t been done before in women’s sports,” Chris Long said. “For the two of us, we take immense pride in where the stadium is located, and what it does for the city. It’s intentional and something that we very much had as a goal from the outset.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told the crowd during the topping-off event that the Current and their building forges a new brand for the region a scant two years after it began play as an NWSL expansion team. It’s a brand strong enough that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his wife, Brittany, purchased an ownership stake in the Current.

“Every meeting I go to, whether it’s a major city or a small town, we have the chance of telling this story of how, in a short amount of time, this team has captured the imagination, excitement and energy of the community,” Lucas said. “Kansas City was founded on the Missouri River, but in the years since, we’ve moved further away from it. To reclaim the riverfront for economic development for a space that Kansas City had forgotten represents the centerpiece of a resurgence of our community and growth long term.”

Frank White, who grew up in Kansas City, played 18 years as a second baseman for the Royals and is now a Jackson County executive, said the stadium project is the best thing that has happened in the city in a long time. Two years ago, White served as a coach for the Kansas City Monarchs, an independent minor league team, at the time they shared their ballpark with the Current in the NWSL team’s first season.

“It was cool to see the Current play at the ballpark and to see how they transformed the field from one event to the next,” White said. “Give a shout-out to Patrick Mahomes for seeing that this project had value and they were ready to invest in it.”

Since 2022, the Current have played their home matches to Children’s Mercy Park, where Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC plays, which is up the street from Legends Field, the Monarchs’ home.

As of June 18, the Current’s average attendance of 10,491 ranked fourth among the NWSL’s dozen teams for the 2023 season, according to Soccer Stadium Digest.

Next year, the Current’s brief nomadic run in the suburbs across the state line in Kansas ends with the opening of their landmark project.

“It’s our next step,” Angie Long said. “It’s amazing how quickly it’s coming together and how beautiful it already is. We’re focused on achieving what was previously thought impossible. The stadium represents our commitment to excellence, sustainability and transformational change. That’s why it’s so important that your signatures are on the final beam.”