Along with ideal growing conditions for wheat and sunflowers, Kansas provides fertile soil for sports legends. Several storied teams, coaches and venues at the pro and college levels are rooted here.
Sporting Kansas CityBack to Top of List
In 2022, Sporting KC marks its 27th year in Major League Soccer, of which the club is a charter member. Home matches take place at Children’s Mercy Park, known as one of the most fan- and family-friendly soccer venues in the country. It features an iconic roof that covers every seating section, a high-density wireless network, phone charging stations and free parking. Go crazy in the Members Stand with KC Cauldron, home of the club’s most vocal fans.
Kansas SpeedwayBack to Top of List
The world’s best drivers come to the Kansas Speedway. Since it opened in 2001, the 1½-mile tri-oval is one of the premier racing facilities in the Midwest, hosting two NASCAR Cup Series races annually, plus the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, a NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the ARCA Menards Series championship race. Feel what it’s like to drive a race car with the NASCAR Racing Experience. Zoom around the track by yourself—no instructor riding along, no pace car to follow—while a spotter gives you pointers over the in-car radio. Pass slower cars if you dare!
Wichita Wind SurgeBack to Top of List
Major League Baseball’s reorganization of Minor League Baseball fueled a new Double-A team for Wichita that swung its first bat in 2021. The Wind Surge, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, plays at Riverfront Stadium—located on the west bank of the Arkansas River. Teams in the newly formed Central League battle each other in multi-game series from May to mid-September. Look for giveaways and promotions throughout the season, plus special events, including live concerts during the off-season.
Kansas City MonarchsBack to Top of List
Here’s a change-up: The T-Bones of the American Association of Professional Baseball are now the Monarchs, honoring the KC team that dominated the old Negro Leagues for decades. The franchise hasn’t had a home field since 1965, but that streak ended on Opening Day of 2021, when the Monarchs emerged from the dugout at Legends Field, formerly T-Bones Stadium. It’s all due to teamwork with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which will have a satellite exhibit at the stadium.
The JayhawksBack to Top of List
KU fields teams in 18 sports for men and women, but it’s the men’s basketball program that ranks among the greatest of all time. The University of Kansas Jayhawks have been playing basketball since 1898—that’s 124 seasons—and their first coach, Dr. James Naismith, invented the game. His successor, the legendary Phog Allen, led the Jayhawks to 24 conference championships and three national titles, and he helped create the NCAA tournament (aka March Madness). Kansas has made it to the Big Dance 31 straight years since 1990, an NCAA record. KU’s arena, Allen Fieldhouse, is named for Phog, and since its opening in 1955, it has provided one of the best home-court advantages in sports. The Jayhawks seldom lose at the Phog, and sellouts are the rule—it’s been called the greatest (and loudest) basketball venue in the country. Get a behind-the-scenes look as part of the Jayhawk Experience, a walking tour of KU athletic venues. See trophies, game gear, and a piece of the original Allen Fieldhouse court at the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. Naismith’s 13 original rules of basketball are displayed in the DeBruce Center.
The ShockersBack to Top of List
More than a century after their days as the Fairmount College Wheatshockers, the Wichita State Shockers have enjoyed several surges of national prominence in men’s basketball, including a run to the NCAA Final Four in 2013 and a 31–0 regular season record in 2013–2014. After a brief hiatus, the Shockers returned to the NCAA tournament in 2021. Wichita State plays home games at Charles Koch Arena, known previously as Henry Levitt Arena, or just The Roundhouse for its shape. The Shockers have enjoyed a big home-court advantage over the last decade, winning 90 percent of their games in front of large, boisterous crowds.
The WildcatsBack to Top of List
The Kansas State Wildcats have played college football since the 1890s, but it took a run of success in the 1990s to establish them as one of the country’s elite teams. That’s when coach Bill Snyder transformed the struggling program, leading it to winning seasons, national rankings and bowl games. After retiring for a few seasons, Snyder returned to KSU for a second stint in 2009, guiding the Wildcats to their sixth conference championship in 2012. This time, Snyder had the rare privilege of coaching in a venue named for him—Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Opened in 1968, the stadium was renamed for the legend in 2005 and has been remodeled extensively in recent years. The latest upgrades include premium seating areas, new video boards, and additional restrooms and concession stands. Before or after a game, take time to explore Aggieville, a district of shops, eateries and bars just south of the Kansas State campus.
The GorillasBack to Top of List
Over more than a century, the Pittsburg State Gorillas have gone totally ape, earning the most wins in NCAA Division II football history, plus four national championships, 31 conference titles, 25 playoff berths and a bunch of bowl games. Yes, Pitt State is the only college team with a gorilla as its official mascot. Carnie Smith Stadium, aka The Jungle, provides a big-time setting for home games. Opened in 1924, the venue has been expanded and upgraded with club seating; luxury sky boxes and elevators; plus new restrooms, concession stands and ticket booths. The Jungletron video board recently got a new look too.
Uncover more incredible sights, tastes and sounds across the state in the 2022 Official Kansas Travel Guide.