Neal Patterson, businessman and long-time owner of the professional soccer franchise Sporting KC, passed away this last weekend. He was 67.
On Tuesday night at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Mr. Patterson was recognized during the match against FC Dallas in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
The Sporting KC leadership painted his name on the field, had orange and black armbands put on the SKC kit (the colors of his alma mater, the Oklahoma State Cowboys) and offered a moment of silence as the flags stood at half-staff. Then, the rowdies in the Cauldron began to chant, “Thank You Neal Patterson.” SKC would go on to deliver a 3-o victory in an extra-time thriller.
Neal Patterson reminds us that when a big vision meets execution great things happen in professional sports. When I interviewed him once for a history project on Lamar Hunt, he remarked that Hunt “enjoyed the power of the big idea and managing the detail.”
Mr. Patterson also told me that “owning a professional sports team was never part of any long-term plan.” After dinner with Hunt at the Capital Grille on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, he said to Mr. Illig, “We just had dinner with the most successful sports entrepreneur in the world. We should do this.”
The decision by Mr. Patterson and Mr. Illig to buy Sporting KC not only kept professional soccer in Kansas City. It spawned a top MLS team. It helped Kansas City become the Soccer Capital of the U.S.
As the Cauldron chanted Tuesday night, “Thank You Neal Patterson.”