U.S. Soccer Mourns the Passing of Soccer Pioneer Lamar Hunt
CHICAGO (Dec. 14, 2006) - American sports icon Lamar Hunt passed away on Wednesday after an on-going battle with cancer. Hunt was known throughout the U.S. soccer world as a pioneer of the sport, which he championed for more than 40 years.
"'A true gentleman.' Something tells me you are going to be reading that phrase many times as the sporting world remembers Lamar Hunt," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "There quite simply has never been a more influential person in sports in the United States, and when it comes to soccer he was the pioneer, the innovator and the patriarch all rolled into one. And that statement was as true in 1966 as it is in 2006."
Hunt's first soccer experience was in 1962, when he attended a Shamrock Rovers game in Dublin, Ireland. There, he also met his future wife, Norma. He viewed the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England and proceeded to attend nine of the past 11 FIFA World Cups. Hunt attended a game in every World Cup Stadium during World Cup USA 1994, France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002.
Hunt became an investor in the North American Soccer League's Dallas Tornados in 1967 and owned the team for 14 years. In 1994, he served as the Dallas Host Committee Chairmain for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Hunt then became a founding investor in Major League Soccer before the league's inaugural season in 1996 as the original investor-operator of the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards.
"This is a truly sad day for the soccer community and on behalf of the entire U.S. Soccer Federation family, we would like to offer our deepest condolences to the Hunt family on their loss. His passing will be felt in every corner of the sports world, just as his legacy will live forever," said Gulati.
In 1999, Hunt established a milestone when he built the country's first stadium specifically for an MLS team, Columbus Crew Stadium. Hunt purchased the Dallas Burn, now FC Dallas, in 2003 and opened another soccer-specific stadium in 2005, Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Hunt recently sold the Wizards to OnGoal, LLC.
Also in 1999, Hunt was honored for his dedication to the growth of soccer in the U.S. when the U.S. Open Cup--the oldest cup competition in U.S. soccer--was renamed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. He had previously been honored in 1982 when he was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame as a builder.
Information on memorial services will be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Heart of a Champion Foundation.