Alumni Newsroom

The World's First Stadium for Women

On the banks of Missouri in the shadow of the iconic “Kit” Bond bridge and Kansas City skyline, J.P. Morgan alumni Angie and Chris Long have taken a ground-breaking step for a new generation of women football stars.

On Saturday, March 16, their team, Kansas City Current in the National Women’s Soccer League, kicked off their opening game on the first purpose-built women’s professional stadium in world football.

 “It’s a remarkable thing to be a part of, and it’s been the ride of lifetime,” said Chris. “It was surreal seeing the joy of the community and the reactions of the players and how touched they were by the moment.”

The day that Angie describes as pure joy and garnered 21 billion impressions globally came after three and a half years of building a team, a brand, a platform, and trail-blazing facilities from scratch. 

J.P. Morgan bankers Zach Effron and James Millard were there to cheer on the home side from the stands, built with $80 million of financing from the firm . 

“The stadium was packed and the buzz around the ground was palpable – fans were really excited to be a part of a historic event,” said Effron, who took his three daughters to the game. “The line for the team store was way out of the door for the whole game. The game itself was amazing, with the Current scoring the first goal and winning 5-4 against arch rivals Portland Thorns. It was awesome. You couldn’t have scripted a better opening.”

The stadium has brought jobs, economic growth to the community and a new home for one of America’s fastest-growing sports. 

Long-lasting ties

Before launching Palmer Square Capital, an investment firm in the Kansas City area, wife-and-husband team Angie and Chris Long spent part of their careers at J.P. Morgan. Angie held several senior roles during her 13 years at the company, including deputy head of North America Credit Trading. Chris started his career as an analyst in J.P. Morgan’s Financial Institutions and Leveraged Finance Groups, and continued at TH Lee Putnam Ventures and Morgan Stanley before founding Palmer Square Capital in 2009. He now serves as Chairman, CEO and Portfolio Manager while Angie is the Chief Investment Officer and leads all investment-related activities.   

“J.P. Morgan has been the foundation of my career,” said Angie. She joined through a rotational program that landed her in the credit derivatives business, one she had an opportunity to build. She remembers her very first day, learning the value placed not just on producing but on learning all she could and then passing that on to others as she took the next step forward. 

“Taking the responsibility to grow those around you and making the most of everything that can be done is something I still think about today,” she noted. 

In so many ways, Chris explains, all that has occurred with the Kansas City Current ties back to their time at J.P. Morgan and relationships built while there and since then. Many of the business firsts that have happened over the last 15 years with their investment firm have been done in partnership with J.P. Morgan.

“Relationships matter. If you don’t lose sight of them, you can build something really special over time,” he said

The power and potential of women’s soccer

The 2019 Women’s World Cup in Paris marked a pivotal moment for the Longs. The experience of watching their daughter play in matches during the day and attending women’s national team games at night, reinforced the power and global nature of the sport. Seeing how far women’s football had come internationally was exactly the confidence booster they needed in bringing women’s professional soccer locally to their sports-loving Kansas City.

As long-time supporters of women’s professional soccer, they bought the Kansas City Current team in 2020, working with another prominent local duo. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his wife Brittany, a former soccer professional, are co-owners of the club.  Among their top priorities:  build their own stadium to run the team and the business properly. 

“It was the right thing for Angie and Chris to do; women’s teams should have their own stadiums,” said Millard.  “Without a dedicated stadium, a women’s team can’t control its destiny with regard to scheduling, and it will miss out on significant revenue streams, everything from naming rights to ticket sales. Those are revenues that can be re-invested in the club and in the facilities for future growth.”

J.P. Morgan has played a big role in supporting the growth of soccer in the U.S. In 2016, it became the first bank to finance the construction of a Major League Soccer stadium, for Orlando City SC; in 2019 the firm closed on a loan to finance Austin FC’s new stadium; and in 2021, it provided capital to Houston Dynamo and Inter Miami. The group has executed multiple stadium and arena financings for teams in other U.S., Canadian and European leagues.

With the firm’s support, momentum is now building in the women’s game, drawing new fans and financial backers. 

“The valuation growth of teams in the National Women’s Soccer League continues to outpace the men’s sport by an impressive clip, albeit from a lower basis, and continues to provide an attractive point of entry as the league continues to expand,” said Effron.

Fifteen to 20 years ago, valuations of leading Major League Soccer men’s teams were around $25 million. Today, some top $1 billion.

“It will take a while for the women’s league to reach that, but there is a lot of upside and we are seeing a lot more sophisticated money going into the space,” noted Tim Self from Public Finance Lending at J.P. Morgan. “Stadiums are a key priority for many professional team owners – both in the NWSL and in other professional sports leagues. We’re going to see more owners wanting to have their own stadiums.” 

The first women’s stadium has taken a while coming.

“How is it possible that we’re the first to build a stadium for a women’s team?” Angie said in an interview with Bloomberg ahead of the opener. “That in and of itself is a sort of a scary statement. But we’re not going to be the last.”

The Longs’ passion for the sport and commitment to the project and J.P. Morgan’s willingness to support it were what the women’s league needed to take it to the next stage of maturity.

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