July is a time for celebration in the United States. Now, alongside Independence day on July 4th and Pioneers Day on July 24th, citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, have another celebration to take part in during the summer month.
The city’s esports organisation, the Kansas City (KC) Pioneers, are proud celebrators of Kansas City Pioneers Day, a day officially celebrating the KC Pioneers and its importance to the city.
For the first time, the KC Pioneers celebrated its day on July 21st, 2022, which marks the three year anniversary of the organisation’s founding. The day itself is marked by an official proclamation from the Mayor’s office, meaning KC Pioneers Day is an official celebration in the City’s calendar.
The organisation, which fields teams in Rocket League, Halo and new FPS Splitgate, is deeply connected to the local community, frequently running charity events, fan gatherings and other events typical of a local sports team. It’s also sharing the market with some big names: the city of 600,000 people has teams in the NFL (Kansas City Chiefs), the MLS (Sporting Kansas City) and baseball (Kansas City Royals).
Esports Insider sat down with Mark Josey, CEO of KC Pioneers, to discuss this landmark day in the organisation’s history. Josey was naturally very proud that the organisation reached such a unique milestone, claiming the day itself is the culmination of everything that the KC Pioneers has worked for over the last three years.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the team, and our fans, advocates and sponsors and investors, leadership and ownership. It’s nice to be able to give back to the community, participate in the community at large, not just the esports community, and pull esports into it.”
KC Pioneers hadn’t always planned to get a day named after it. The organisation, as Josey explained, has always provided the local community with events, activations and things to do. When building the organisation, Josey and the rest of the team wanted to make sure that community outreach was one of the key pillars, and that the Pioneers participated in community events from the get go.
“It was a part of our mission and our values to be more involved and engaged, and make the place around us better. We started thinking how we could do STEAM initiatives, and how we could connect esports to folks that may not experience it daily.
“We started working with the Mayor’s Office, specifically on the Boys and Girls Club, and we ran charity streams, brought the Mayor and the members of the Club, and worked with Generation Esports, another fantastic organisation here in Kansas City.”
Josey said that partnering with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was a great move to bring esports closer to the wider Kansas City population. Together with the Mayor, the Pioneers hosted a series of tournaments sponsored by the City, and created close ties to Kansas City citizens by organising STEAM-based events, talks and mentorships that connect the wider audience with esports.
The Mayor himself was, as Josey put it, very interested in what KC Pioneers was trying to build, and it made sense for both parties to figure out more ways to work together. The Pioneers worked with City’s development councils, the local government, and the tourism and travel boards to present the esports industry as something positive, and something that can be beneficial to the city itself.
The biggest display of the benefits of esports came when the Pioneers hosted a Halo Major in the city, which contributed more than $1.8m (~£1.5m) to the city’s economic growth, according to the esports organisation. The City and Pioneers also worked on STEAM initiatives together.
Proclamation and a seal
There was no major moment of realisation that KC Pioneers Day would become a thing, Josey said. Rather, it was the culmination of good relations between the esports team and the local government, other esports teams and the broader community.
The inaugural KC Pioneers Day took place last month, and was celebrated by the organisation and the City together by organising giveaways, fan gatherings and tournaments.
“We got a proclamation,” Josey reminisced. “It’s not a normal piece of paper, I don’t know the dimensions, but it’s a big piece of paper. We framed that on KC Pioneers day, and had it signed by Mayor Quinton Lucas. There was a seal on it, and it just made it tangible, definitely made us certain that it was the real deal. Overall, we did some cool stuff with our fans, our community, and got to frame the thing.”
KC Pioneers is unique even in Kansas City. Other major sports clubs in the city do not have their own day, despite the KC Chiefs winning the Super Bowl twice, the Royals winning the World Series twice and Sporting winning the MLS Cup twice.
Yet the other sports teams joined in on the celebrations for KC Pioneers day, Josey said. “I don’t know why they don’t have their own day, but I will say they were happy for us to have ours.”
Truth be told, you can’t just give everyone a commemorative day. Now that the KC Pioneers has its own, Josey said that the organisation will continue working towards making a difference in the community. This includes organising more tournaments, continuing to focus on STEAM initiatives in the city, and of course growing its competitive teams.
In case further proof was needed of KC’s community focus, there will also be a big KC Pioneers block party at the end of the summer — Josey said everyone is invited.