A new MLS stadium/field/park opened in Kansas City last Thursday night and something very unusual stood out from the rest of the baby blue seats at Livestrong Sporting Park. You see that yellow seat? That’s Lance Armstrong’s seat. Row 1, Seat 7 in the owner’s private box. Only yellow seat in entire stadium. Make of it what you will. Somewhere George Steinbrenner wants a do-over.
Opening to a 0-0 draw between the K.C. and Chicago, the Park was filled with 19,925 fans and one yellow seat filled with Lance Armstrong, still in the public eye after the Tyler Hamilton 60 Minutes allegations.
NPR recently tackled the Livestrong/K.C. relationship, but nothing about that yellow seat.
Club owners know the “Lance issue,” as they call it, is a potential problem. But CEO Rob Heineman says the Livestrong stadium won’t suffer, even if charges are brought against Armstrong.
“You have to look him straight in the eye and say ‘What if?’” Heineman says. “But I think we’re very comfortable with where the conversation is and if should something internally should pop up, we’ll deal with it.”
Owners won’t say if their contract protects them should any of the allegations against Armstrong be confirmed — or if he settles his case. But most experts agree a judgment against the iconic athlete would further tarnish his image, and therefore his brand. That, in turn, inevitably reflects on the Livestrong Foundation and the stadium.
University of Missouri Kansas City marketing professor Gene Brown says in everyone’s mind, Lance Armstrong will always be the face of Livestrong. And according to a Neilsen marketing rating, his brand is already beaten down.
After hours of extensive research via our normal chain of informants it’s still unclear why/how a single yellow seat was installed at Livestrong. Was it Lance’s idea? Was it the foundation saying you must do something special for Lance? Was it a marketing ploy from the Sporting K.C. club?
Two days later Armstrong was in Aspen. So was Hamilton. Something might have happened near a restaurant bathroom. Or maybe it didn’t. Hamilton was kicked out of the restaurant.
Meanwhile, there is a yellow seat at Livestrong Park that’ll need an occupant Friday night. K.C. faces San Jose at 7:30.