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Is the new Wembley in Kansas?

Robb Heinemann, the CEO of Sporting Club in Kansas City certainly thinks so.  He joined Cisco’s David Holland this week to launch the brand new LIVESTRONG Sporting Park stadium on Tuesday ahead of Sporting Club’s first home game of the season tonight (Thur June 9 at 7pm PT, 9pm CT, 10pm ET on ESPN2).

Cisco’s Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group has been working to build technology into the very fabric of the stadium over the course of the construction and tonight’s game promises to give fans a wholly new experience.   The stadium is equipped with Cisco’s new Connected Stadium Wi-Fi solution which brings high-speed wireless capabilities to fans and staff throughout the ground. The idea is to ‘offload’ data traffic from congested cell phone networks to allow fans to watch video replays right from their seats while keeping the cell phone network freed up for making calls and texting.

Throughout the venue, Cisco’s Stadium Vision solution will also provide live and recorded video on over 300 HD digital signs deployed throughout the club’s restaurants, bars, suites and open areas.  For the first time, fans in the executive suites will also be able to control the angle of the shot and change what content they view on the screen using an iPad application. Cisco has opened up the API to its Stadium Vision solution working in collaboration with Sporting Club to enable this first of a kind innovation in the MLS.

Sporting Club is also the first MLS venue to deploy Cisco’s Unified Computing and Nexus 7000 platforms to deliver virtualized network services.  Now the network is truly the platform for this next-generation experience in Kansas and Sporting Club will also be using the Stadium Vision platform and API to support their social networking solutions for members of the club.  Incidentally, Sporting Club is also offering club members free tickets to away games for this season.

You can watch a replay of the press conference below, and here are a couple of the media reports on the Stadium opening in the Kansas City StarSports Business Journal, in Bloomberg BusinessWeek and on ESPN:

The stadium will also be hosting national games as early as next week with the USA national team taking on Guadaloupe and Panama playing Canada in the CONCANAF Gold Cup on Thur June 14th (USA is currently heading up Group C as of June 9th).  And for Bay Area soccer fans, the San Jose Earthquakes travel out to Kansas next Friday, June 17.

What do you think -- now that the US has an iconic stadium in Kansas designed specifically for soccer, could this be another step in helping the sport break through in popularity in the US?

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