Travel

New National Soccer Hall of Fame Experience has Kansas ties

Wichita Wings fans, you’ll find just one or two small references to professional indoor soccer at the new National Soccer Hall of Fame complex in Frisco, Texas, but you’ll find interactive experiences, soccer history on display and plenty of ties to Kansas City.

The biggest connection is the venue itself: Toyota Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, opened in 2005 as one of the first soccer-specific stadiums in the country and it was the final stadium project for Lamar Hunt, who died in 2006. More familiar in Kansas as the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and a pioneer in professional American football, Hunt is also considered a founding father of professional soccer in North America.

He was an initial investor and organizer of the North American Soccer League and then started Kansas City’s MLS franchise, known as the Wiz when they first took the field in 1996, then the Wizards and today Sporting KC (Hunt sold the team in 2006).

Hunt was enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1982 and received the hall’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, in 1999. His sons Clark and Dan Hunt, who are now running the Hunt Sports Group that still owns the Chiefs and FC Dallas, led efforts to bring the Hall of Fame to Frisco, about 25 miles north of Dallas, after its original location in Oneonta, New York, closed in 2010 due to lack of funding.

Frisco is also home to the Double-A baseball Frisco RoughRiders, the NHL’s Dallas Stars, the NBA G-league Texas Legends and the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys at The Ford Center, which is open for scheduled tours.

Built into the south end of Toyota Stadium as part of a $55 million stadium upgrade, the National Soccer Hall of Fame Experience takes up a little more than 19,000 square feet and is the first major sports hall of fame within an operating stadium. It held its first Hall of Fame Weekend late last October, then opened for regular hours in November.

A two-day Hall of Fame celebration this weekend includes an invitation-only induction ceremony, a concert and game at Toyota Stadium. Abby Wambach, who ended her career with the U.S. women’s national team in 2015 as the all-time leading goal scorer in women’s international soccer, and Sunil Gulati, former U.S. Soccer president, will be enshrined as the 2019 Hall of Fame class. The ceremony will be live streamed on nationalsoccerhof.com at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Then, gates open at 6 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. concert headlined by OneRepublic. Opening acts are The Fray and Maelyn Jarmon, a Frisco native and winner of “The Voice” season 16 winner. Tickets range from $25-$59 and there’s currently a buy-one-get-one offer at nationalsoccerhof.com that gets you two general admission field tickets for $62.65 including fees and taxes.

On Sunday, Sept. 22, FC Dallas hosts New York City FC in the National Soccer Hall of Fame Game at 5 p.m. Tickets range from $29-$75.

I visited this summer within a week of the U.S. Women’s National Team winning its fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title and we spent about an hour inside. You could easily spend longer if you play more of the interactive games. Rather than a museum, they are calling this the National Soccer Hall of Fame Experience because there are 13 hands-on exhibits incorporating virtual reality, gesture technology, green screens and interactive video boards.

In one area, you can practice heading, juggling and free kicks using screens that felt like playing Nintendo Wii. At another station, I put on a headset and used handheld controllers to feel like I was playing goalie. You can play soccer trivia against other visitors, design your own team scarf that you can have made in the gift shop and pose in front of the green screen to insert yourself into two moments from the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

If you choose to have your photo taken when you come into the Hall of Fame, all of your efforts will be recorded each time you stop at a station using facial recognition technology. For all the high-tech options, I couldn’t help but smile that several groups of teenage boys touring while I was there spent most of their time at the old school foosball game.

History exhibits cover everything from the start of soccer in the U.S. and the game’s growth among men and women thanks to the national scope of the North American Soccer League to a video exhibit of top 10 greatest moments in women’s soccer and a touchscreen exhibit featuring more than 200 Hall inductees.

Memorabilia on display includes historic game balls, original tickets, Olympic medals and vintage jerseys from some of the game’s greats, including an autographed Pelé Cosmos jersey alongside his credentials from his debut game in 1975 against the Dallas Tornado.

Don’t miss the trophy case in the lounge area that overlooks the field. All but one of the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophies were gone during my visit – traveling with the team during the traditional victory tour – but will go on display there permanently by November.

The cost of the Hall of Fame Experience is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and ages 12 and under. They are typically open Wednesday through Sunday but have special hours on FC Dallas gamedays or when other special events happen at Toyota Stadium. If you decide to attend during the Hall of Fame weekend, be sure to check their Facebook page or call 469-365-0043 to confirm museum hours.

Just outside the doors to the new hall of fame is another Kansas City area connection. The Hunts wanted a sculpture to convey the energy, excitement and passion of the game; something fans would feel drawn to pose with as they walked by, much like the sculpture of Michael Jordan outside Chicago’s United Center.

They sent a realistic rendering of a bicycle kick to inspire a commissioned piece from sculptor Jacob Burmood and art consultant Paul Dorrell. They took it in a contemporary direction, creating “The Kick” – an 800-pound, cold-cast aluminum sculpture of a non-defined figure executing a bicycle kick, one of soccer’s most iconic strikes.

The Hunts were already working with the pair on an 11-foot-tall statue for the Kansas City Chiefs that Burmood said should be installed outside the main entrance at Arrowhead Stadium within the next month.

Dorrell is owner of Leopold Gallery in Kansas City and represents Burmood there. Burmood, a Springfield, Mo., native, earned a master of fine arts in ceramics from the University of Kansas in 2013. He was based in Ottawa, Kan., when “The Kick” was completed in 2018 and he’s now working from a studio in Kansas City, Mo. He has several public art installations across the country and in Kansas, mostly in the Prairie Village and Olathe areas. They are all large-scale abstracts in cold-cast aluminum.

“One thing that was intentional on our part, and Clark and Dan were very much on board with it, is that a soccer player of any age or any race could identify with the piece, and that includes boys and girls,” Dorrell said in a news release when the sculpture was unveiled in October 2018. “Whether they’re a soccer player who’s in their 40s or older, Hispanic, Asian, white, black — I want them to be able to identify with this piece and be inspired by it and see themselves performing that kick.”

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