Soccer fans react to the official FIFA World Cup host city announcement on Thursday, June 16, 2022, at the Kansas City Power and Light District in Kansas City, Mo. Credit: (Zachary Linhares/KC Beacon)
This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon.
Kansas City has reason to celebrate. After years of constructing a bid to host a portion of the 2026 World Cup, FIFA officials announced that the city will be one of 11 host cities in the United States.
GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium will be the host venue for Kansas City’s portion of the series and will undergo some upgrades to accommodate the games, which Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said will cost around $50 million.
The city’s position geographically and within the national soccer scene uniquely positioned it as an opportune host city, officials said at a party to watch the international announcement. The United States, Mexico and Canada put in a joint bid to host the games.
Kansas City was one of 16 cities in the final running to host at least a portion of the World Cup. Western region cities hosting games include Vancouver, Canada, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Other central region cities include Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Mexico City and Monterrey. Eastern region host cities are Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and New York.
It’s unclear how many games Kansas City will host. Bid director Katherine Holland said Thursday afternoon that representatives from host cities will soon travel to New York to get more information on hosting the games.
The 2026 World Cup will be a historically significant series; 48 nations will participate in the games, up from the 32 that have in the past participated.
Kansas City began bidding to host the games in 2017, Holland said.
“We drummed up support from states surrounding Kansas and Missouri and the games will be hosted in Kansas City at Arrowhead, but this is really a bid to represent and celebrate the region as a whole,” Holland said. “I think that the investment that has gone into growing the game of soccer over the past decade certainly justifies us being a sort of soccer capital of America.”
Holland pointed to the consistent expansion of the game in Kansas City and recent news that Kansas City’s professional women’s soccer team, the Kansas City Current, will soon open a new training facility and break ground on a stadium to host the team.
Other recent investments in the city, such as the new $1.5 billion terminal at Kansas City International Airport, scheduled to open in 2023, also separated Kansas City from other cities in the running, leaders said.
Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and Sporting Kansas City principal owner Cliff Illig were honorary co-chairs of the bid team. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler were honorary bid captains.
World Cup expected to draw massive spending to metro area
Lucas pointed to the job creation that hosting some of the games could bring to the region.
“Our team effort to bring the 2026 World Cup to Kansas City has culminated in today’s success as we prepare to be one of few American cities selected to host the largest sporting event in the world,” Lucas said in a press release.
“The World Cup will bring jobs to our residents, will generate hundreds of millions of dollars for our region, and will illustrate on a global stage what we’ve known for some time: Kansas City is the soccer capital of America. I can’t wait to welcome the world to Kansas City,” the mayor added.
Part of the requirements in submitting a bid included a sales tax exemption for tickets. Missouri Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, sponsored the bill that would do so for Kansas City’s ticket sales.
Any potential loss of revenue, though, would be outweighed by tourism to the area and job creation involved with preparing Kansas City for the cup, Rizzo said.
“[The bill] shows a near $700 million in positive economic impact. To the state of Missouri, it’s just an opportunity for Kansas City to show itself off to the world stage,” Rizzo told The Beacon. “I don’t even know if you can quantify that economically as to what that means for the region. And not just even the city or state, but throughout the entire Midwest.”
A study by the University of Tennessee Knoxville examining the potential impact estimated 160,000 fans traveling into the Nashville area if the city were to host four games. The study estimated nearly $700 million in visitor spending and $185.5 million in earnings for Tennessee workers.
Rizzo pointed to the investment into Kansas City, supported by the restaurant and entertainment industries, that helped accelerate the metro’s growth.
“I think it’s the perfect culmination of all the things that the city of Kansas City has been working on really truly for the last 20, 30 years,” he said. “The industry that has just fully embraced downtown Kansas City. It is a dynamic town that has reaped the rewards of massive investment.”
Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, a Republican, said in a news conference at Kansas City Power and Light District after the announcement that Kansas City’s successful bid was a result of bipartisan collaboration led by Rizzo and Rep. Jonathan Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit.
“These rock stars up here that helped you… a Republican and a Democrat…who worked together to get this thing done,” Kehoe said. “It’s here because Missouri has great sports fans. We have great sports franchises. From the General Assembly and the governor of the state of Missouri, Gov. Parson, we’d like to welcome the World Cup here in 2026.”
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