No. 24 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: Kansas City
How much does where you live matter as a sports fan? The short answer: It depends.
If you're an Alabama football fan, there's no better place to live than Tuscaloosa. If you're a Red Sox fan, there's no worse place to live than New York City.
But what if you were a free agent, so to speak? What if you loved sports but didn't have a specific affiliation to any team? You're moving to a new city. What city would have the most to offer you as a sports fan? What city would give you the best overall experience?
That is what we're here to find out. We took 25 of the best writers from Bleacher Report and beyond to objectively look at their cities and come up with a ranking. To get a better understanding of the categories and grading criteria, click here.
Kansas City comes in at No. 24. Let's find out why.
Number of Teams/Events: 10/20
Kansas City obsesses over the Chiefs and longs for the Royals to return to their glory days, but unless you count Sporting KC (soccer), there are no other pro sports teams in town.
The Sprint Center was erected in the heart of downtown in 2007 with the hope of luring an NBA or NHL franchise, but no progress has been made on that front. That’s why Kansas City—which roots for Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri—is considered as much of a college sports town as a pro sports town.
Success of Teams in the Last Five Years: 7/20
Kansas City sports fans know about heartache. Although they’re surging under second-year coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1993. And the Royals’ 1985 World Series title marks the last time they’ve reached the postseason.
Sporting KC won the MLS Cup in 2013, and the Kansas basketball squad—which has won 10 straight Big 12 titles—reached the 2012 Final Four. The Missouri football squad has reached a bowl game in seven of the last eight years, while Kansas State is two years removed from an 11-2 season and a Fiesta Bowl berth.
It’s difficult to match the energy and ambiance at most Kansas City sporting events.
Arrowhead Stadium is regarded as one of the NFL’s loudest, most imposing venues—and the pregame tailgate scene is arguably the league’s best. Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse is considered the best place in the country to watch a college basketball game. Heck, there’s a reason Bill Self has more Big 12 titles in 11 seasons than he does home losses.
Sporting KC consistently sells out its home games and, despite the Royals’ struggles, 41-year-old Kauffman Stadium couldn’t be more charming with its trademark fountains in the outfield.
Fan Passion: 7/10
Chiefs fans are so vocal and rowdy that parents often don’t feel comfortable taking their young children to games. Otherwise, the most passionate fans are supporters of one of the local colleges. Kansas City is filled with alums of Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.
During football season, things can get downright nasty in sports bars, on Internet message boards and radio airwaves. Missouri’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC forced the end of its century-old “Border War” with Kansas, but the hatred between both sides has hardly simmered.
General Fan Experience: 10/15
The tailgating scene at Chiefs games is a sight to behold. Gates open at 8 a.m. for a noon game, and by 8:30, the smell of barbecue dances through the air as fans roam the parking lot, sampling food, throwing footballs or engaging in a game of cornhole with complete strangers. Some folks have so much fun tailgating that they never even enter the stadium.
Even though it doesn’t have a permanent resident, the downtown Sprint Center has been an excellent host for the Big 12 tournament. Fans love spilling out of the arena and heading to the Power & Light District—a popular bar and restaurant arena—directly across the street. No ticket, though, is as hard to come by as a primo seat at Allen Fieldhouse, where the decibel level has reached 115.
The Kansas City Star has long boasted one of the country’s top sports sections. The paper sends a beat writer on the road with each of K.C.’s top teams.
Radio talk show hosts such as WHB 810’s Kevin Kietzman and Soren Petro are polarizing figures who have become local celebrities, and longtime broadcasters such as Denny Matthews (Royals) and Bob Davis (Kansas basketball) are must-listens.
Star Power: 3/10
The Royals can’t afford the big-timers, and each time they develop one, they leave (Carlos Beltran, Zack Greinke).
The Chiefs have had some standout running backs (Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles) in recent years but little else in terms of star power.
The biggest names in town are usually Kansas basketball players. In Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, the Jayhawks had two of the first three players taken in the 2014 NBA draft.
Kansas City has had some nice sports moments: the Royals’ 1985 championship, Kansas' basketball titles in 1952, 1988 and 2008, and the Chiefs’ 1969 Super Bowl title. But that’s not nearly enough to qualify K.C. as a tradition-rich town when it comes to sports success.
Final Tally: 59/100
While Chiefs fans will probably be upset at this ranking, the fact of the matter is that there's little in Kansas City for the average sports fan to get excited about, although some solid college teams sit on the outskirts.
But the lack of success from the major sports in the area and star power (especially since Wiggins and Embiid have left) hurts the score, even though K.C. scores high in categories like stadiums and fan passion.
Kansas City is still a great place to be a sports fan. The barbecue alone is enough to get people to the city to enjoy some games.