Thursday, November 17, 2011

Year 1 as Sporting

One year ago today, the Kansas City Wizards had an announcement at the Power and Light District in downtown KC to announce their identity change from the Wizards to Sporting Kansas City. Included with the new name was a new logo, new colors, and basically a new identity.

Overall the first year of "Sporting KC" would be classified as a success both on an off the field, on the field the team went from missing the playoffs two straight years to topping the Eastern Conference in the regular season and making the conference finals. Unfortunately it didn't end with a trip to MLS Cup, but a successful year none the less. Off the field it was arguably a much better year. Not only with the opening of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, but with everything else involved with it. This year the team has gotten press in this city that had been unheard of for the Wizards the previous 15 years of their existence. And it was mostly positive (the Jack Harry belittling aside). Along with the stadium and the press, you had the enormous growth of the fan base as a whole. Over 10,000 season ticket holders for the new stadium, probably at least double what KC had the previous season at Community America Ballpark. The new stadium combined with the fans has made KC an intimidating environment for opposing teams to come and play. It's also put Kansas City and LSP firmly in the conversation for hosting World Cup qualifiers. I would be shocked if the US men's national team does not return here for a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup.

As for the name itself, it's grown on me a bit. Would I still like the team to be called the Wizards? Yes, in my own personal opinion, but I'm selfish like that. The Wizards were the team I spent part of my late childhood going to watch and I didn't want that part of it going away. Many other people agreed with me at the time that they didn't like the name change, reading through the comments about the announcement and even when I leaked the logo are good for a laugh when you go back and read through them now.

With regard to the name change, as much as it disappoints me as a "Wizards" proponent is that I don't think the "Wizards" would have had the off field success that "Sporting" did this year. As much as I love the name, it is kiddy, and it does have the Wizard of Oz connotation to people when they here Kansas and Wizard in the same sentence. The Sporting name gave the front office an almost clean slate to work with for the 2011 season. Sure the stadium was a big selling point, but do people think the same success in the stands occur with the name Wizards? I don't think so.

As for me, I'll continue to refer to them as the Wizards, I still do it in the blog and will continue to. In conversations with my wife and family I still call them the Wizards over Sporting and will continue to do so. The team is still the Wizards to me and will continue to be. And while I'm sure that digs a little at some people in the front office (one of my favorite memories from this year was opening day in LA with Robb Heineman cheering with the traveling Cauldron and trying to insert Sporting wherever we were saying Wizards), I'm sure many of them realize that there will always be a section of fans who will call the team the Wizards. That section of fans is going to grow smaller as the years go by, but it'll be with the team. It is part of their history and will continue to be.


Anonymous said...

I'm still not a fan of the rebrand. The way the whole thing went down still rubs me the wrong way and I still think I will always refer to them as the Wizards.

I disagree with you that the section of fans referring to them as the Wizards will dwindle over time. Sporting is no nickname for a team. It doesn't sound right and I think it comes off awkward sometimes when you reference them as Sporting. The Wizards, as a tangible mascot, still makes way more sense to me than Sporting. For instance, in the cheer "we are the wizards, the mighty wizards" you can't replace that with Sporting. It doesn't really make sense. I think the Cauldron will continue to be referred to as the Cauldron (with the implicit link to the Wizards) and fans will continue to refer to the Wizards in certain chants.

I know people don't like the Wizards and would point to the success of the team under the new rebrand but who’s to say the team wouldn't have been as successful or popular under the Wizards’ name this season? The Wizards were never marketed with as much money as Sporting and they didn't have the stadium either. I think the organization could have generated just as much hype under the Wizards as Sporting if they had the same marketing machine behind them.

What really bothered me about the rebrand was this separation between the history of the Wizards and the new history of Sporting. Apart from our silverware, I feel like the organization wanted to act like the Wizards never existed. We have so much great history as the Wizards and I wish the organization would promote it.

I think in time, once the new brand is more established (its already more established now than I ever thought it would be in a year), they'll start to acknowledge our past more and become more comfortable with the old brand. I hope that Wizards becomes the unofficial nickname of the team and the organization will become comfortable referring to the players or the team as such. I hope someday build a hall of fame and have a Preki statue in the Sprint Plaza. I hope someday the organization isn't ashamed to acknowledge our past. And like I said, I think over time they will.

Mike said...


Great post, very well said. I agree with some of what you say, especially in the last paragraph. I think we'll see more acknowledgement of the team's past in the future, this year especially was all about establishing the new name, and you don't want to refer too much to the old name in that situation. But I think we will see more acknowledgment as time goes by.