Neal Patterson, a principal owner of Sporting Kansas City and the chairman and CEO of the Cerner Corporation, passed away on Sunday. He was 67 years old.
Patterson made his mark in MLS with his leadership of Sporting Kansas City. As part of a group that included Cerner Corporation co-founder Cliff Illig, Patterson purchased the then Kansas City Wizards from Hunt Sports Group in 2006.
Under the leadership of its new ownership group, the franchise changed on numerous levels. In 2011, the team moved into the new soccer-specific Livestrong Sporting Park (now Children’s Mercy Park) in Kansas City, KS, where they have become one of the most well-supported teams in MLS. It was also under Patterson’s watch that the club underwent an extensive rebranding process, changing its identity from the Wizards to Sporting Kansas City prior to the 2011 campaign.
To recognize his role in shaping the organization, Sporting KC is already planning its tributes to Patterson. More from The Kansas City Star:
“We not only lost a great man, we lost the spearhead of our organization,” Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes said. “When you look at the things that are left behind in this organization — purchasing the team and saving it for Kansas City, the rebrand, the facilities that have been built, the stadium, the success the team has had on the field — he was extremely invested in all aspects of this organization.
“When you have a guy that is, like I said, the spearhead of all of those things, it’s such a huge loss.”
Sporting KC plans to honor Patterson during its match Tuesday against FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup, as well as the remainder of the season. The details of those commemorations will be announced Monday and Tuesday.
“This is a profound loss. Neal and I have been partners and collaborators for nearly 40 years, and friends for longer than that,” Illig said in a statement. “Neal loved waking up every morning at the intersection of health care and IT. His entrepreneurial passion for using IT as a lever to eliminate error, variance, delay, waste and friction changed our industry.”
MLS commissioner Don Garber also offered his condolences. “Major League Soccer deeply mourns the passing of Neal Patterson,” Garber said in a statement. “Neal’s vision and passion were instrumental in the incredible turnaround of Sporting Kansas City. He was a brilliant entrepreneur who made community relations and philanthropy essential components of every business he owned. We extend our condolences to Neal’s family and friends, the Sporting Kansas City organization, and their fans.”
According to Cerner Corporation’s announcement, Patterson passed away “due to unexpected complications that arose after a recent recurrence of a previously disclosed cancer.”