Best Hometown Sports Team: Sporting Kansas City
It’s difficult to believe that just a few years ago, KC’s Major League Soccer team didn’t even have its own home stadium. Although the team formerly known as The Wizards has always had a core of ardent supporters, the launch of its new moniker and state-of-the-art stadium stirred interest, leading to a slew of new fans.
Now some of the most passionate supporters in the league pack Sporting Park on game day, with full-capacity crowds of more than 21,000 when SKC’s greatest rivals come to play. The team’s popularity helped bring the MLS All-Star game to town last season, and reached fever pitch when Sporting defeated Salt Lake City to clinch the 2013 MLS Cup after the longest penalty kick shootout in the championship’s history.
2nd Place: Kansas City Chiefs | 3rd Place: Kansas City Royals
Best Athlete: Graham Zusi
His SKC jersey bears an 8, but Zusi is clearly Number One with our readers. No wonder, given the stellar season he’s had. This year “Zeus” repped both club and country, taking leave from his position as a Sporting midfielder for Sporting to serve as a member of the United States Men’s National Soccer Team. The fast-on-his-feet player provided the assist for two crucial assists in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, aiding the winning goal in US’s first game (against Ghana) and the equalizer in the team’s second game, a draw with Portugal.
2nd Place: Matt Besler; 3rd Place: Jamaal Charles
Best Coach: Andy Reid
When the former Philadelphia Eagles signed a five-year contract to serve as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in January 2013, he elevated a team that had finished with the worst season in franchise history to one that tied the record for the best start in franchise history. After that 9-0 start, the Chiefs finished the season with a 11-5 record. As the 2014 season kicks off, fans will be watching eagerly to see if he can lead the team to even more wins.
2nd Place: Peter Vermes | 3rd Place: Bill Self
Best Hometown Hero: Matt Besler
The entire Sporting squad became our hometown heroes last year when they won the MLS Cup, but there’s a special place in Kansas Citians’ hearts for Overland Park-born Matt Besler, who this season took over as team captain. Since first being called up in 2013, the defender has made more than 20 appearances on the United States Men’s National Soccer Team. After strong performances in the starting lineup for all four of the US’s games in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Besler received offers from several European teams, but delighted fans by signing a multi-year designated player contract with Sporting instead. “This is a dream come to true to know that I’ll be playing my whole career in Kansas City,” Besler said in a statement.
Besler has proved an asset to the community off the pitch too, raising funds for blood cancer research as a contender for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year title in 2012, Besler has also donated his time to the Child Protection Center, SKC’s The Victory Project foundation and many other worthy causes.
2nd Place: George Brett | 3rd Place: Paul Rudd
Best Personal Trainer: Hailee Bland-Walsh, City Gym
When former pro soccer player Bland-Walsh’s opened her fitness studio three years ago, her vision was that it should be not just a place to work out, but a place to belong. It’s an ethos she adheres to not only as the owner and general manager of City Gym, but also as a personal trainer. Pop into the club almost any time and you’re likely to spot her on the floor, chatting to and exercising alongside members or working one-on-one with a client. Bland-Walsh describes herself as “one part best friend, one part sensei, one part street fighter, and final part cheerleader”—and all of that adds up to a winner.
2nd Place: Cory Nicholson, HardCor Training and Health House | 3rd Place: Eric Dixon, MJ Fitness
Best 18 Holes in KC: The Country Club at Loch Lloyd
At Loch Lloyd, golf isn’t just a pastime, it’s a lifestyle. The distinctive resort-style community actually boasts 27 of the finest golf holes in the region, but it’s the Tom Watson Signature Design course that makes other clubs green with envy. Golf Digest magazine named it one of the top five new courses in the country when it opened two years ago, and it’s still tops with readers.
2nd Place: The National Golf Club of Kansas City | 3rd Place: Shoal Creek Golf Club
Best Race: Hospital Hill Run
For more than 40 years, runners have strived to beat their personal best in what’s become known as the “grandfather of all Kansas City road races.” With routes of 5k, 10k and a half-marathon wending through downtown, the challenging run attracts a wide range of participants, from weekend warriors to serious athletes.
2nd Place: Rock the Parkway; 3rd Place | Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon
Best Fitness Studio: City Gym
This Waldo-based winner started off the year bigger and better, thanks to a 6,000-square-foot expansion. But even though the club doubled in size, City Gym still prides itself on the personal attention it offers its members. That excellent service is is matched by its stylish interior and amenities, which include the latest cardio equipment, a dedicated cycling studio, a wide range of group fitness classes and the big, bright-green Synrgy360—think of it as a jungle gym for grown-ups seeking a total body workout.