Sporting KC stadium gets new name
Less than two years into a six-year naming-rights deal for Livestrong Sporting Park, both the Livestrong Foundation and Major League Soccer's Sporting KC say the agreement is set to end for different reasons.
The move would be the latest of several by the anti-cancer charity to separate itself from its founder and former chairman, Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.
It also comes just two days before the first part of the disgraced cyclist's interview with Oprah Winfrey in which he admits to using performance-enhancing drugs was set to air.
The arrangement's initiation actually came from the Livestrong foundation, whose officials informed the team this week that the club had only paid $250,000 of the $1 million that it owed the foundation in 2012. Sources say the communication noted that failure to make the foundation whole within two weeks would result in the charity severing the deal.
"While we don't talk about the specifics related to any of our partners, part of my role as the chief financial officer is to ensure compliance by our corporate partners," Livestrong CFO Greg Lee said. "We strive to be great partners ourselves and expect the same from those we do business with. If a partner is struggling to meet the terms of our agreement, we do everything possible to reach a fair and reasonable compromise. If no compromise can be reached, as good stewards or our brand and mission, we have no choice but to bring that agreement to an end."
For its part, a team official refutes the club owes any money, but says the deal to make the $200 million stadium Livestrong Sporting Park in March 2011 didn't live up to its expectations, either. When the deal was forged, Sporting KC said it would donate $7.5 million to the foundation in exchange for connecting to one of the sporting world's most powerful charities.
"We are disappointed to learn Livestrong is deploying tactics designed to force us into an unacceptable arrangement, after months of good faith discussions in which we believed progress had been made," said Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman in a statement provided to ESPN.com. "We were not expecting the foundation to treat a partner in this manner, especially given the tumultuous environment they have thrust us into over the past year -- while we staunchly defended the mission of the foundation. Our faith and trust in this partnership has been permanently damaged; therefore we are terminating our agreement with Livestrong immediately."
Heineman says Sporting KC has decided to rename the field the team calls home Sporting Park.
Lee said that, as of Tuesday evening, no one on his team had received any notice of the team's desire to end the deal.
The anti-cancer charity formally dropped Armstrong from its name in November and officially became known as the Livestrong Foundation. The foundation has joined Nike Inc., 24-Hour Fitness and other former sponsors and endorsers dropping support for the former champion cyclist.
Before this week's interview with Winfrey, Armstrong had long denied doping, and Sporting KC had said as late as last summer that it planned to leave the name of the stadium in place.
Livestrong Sporting Park, which opened last year, is hosting the 2013 MLS All-Star game this summer.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.