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At The Top Of Her Game – Katherine Holland

Executive Director of KC2026, Katherine Holland

How lucky is Kansas City to have a native daughter return to the metro area to lead the city and a worldwide sports event in one of its finest hours? Very lucky, indeed. Katherine Holland was possibly the only person who could fill these shoes at this time in Our Town’s history. This Pembroke Hill School “lifer” (attended pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) was meant to return to her hometown to guide it through this enormous opportunity. In June of 2023, Katherine was named the executive director of the non profit, KC2026, which oversees the strategy and delivery of contractual obligations for FIFA World Cup 26 in Kansas City. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the project, and building plans and strategies for the event, lasting from mid-June to late July of 2026. In addition to that, she identifies all staffing needs, and reports to the KC2026 Executive Committee and Board of Directors, led by Karen Daniel. (The Honorary Co-chairmen for KC2026 are Clark Hunt and Cliff Illig.) According to the schedule, there will be six matches in the metro, to be held at (as we know it, Arrowhead Stadium) Kansas City Stadium. 

Katherine has actually been working on the years-long project since long before FIFA awarded Kansas City the title of Host City. In one of her first official duties, she hosted the FIFA visiting delegation in October of 2021. She clearly made an impression that helped to secure the designation. Her journey to this point is fascinating. Katherine has worked and lived in San Francisco and New York City, where she sourced, negotiated, and led some large-scale partnerships on behalf of several financial services companies, including American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa. She was also the vice president of partnership strategy for the Madison Square Garden Company in New York. 

Katherine returned home in 2015 to work with the Kansas City Sports Commission and assumed the role of executive director of the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She then helped Kansas City’s successful bid to secure the NFL Draft in 2023. She is a graduate of Central Exchange’s Emerging Leaders program and the Kansas City Chamber’s Centurions Leadership Development Program. Bringing her education of a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and an MBA from Fordham University Gabelli School of Business in New York, and her national stellar work experience, she is a professional force to be reckoned with in the consensus-building world of sports and politics. 

Besides all of her professional ventures, she has also had time to volunteer, and she has served on the boards of the KC Fringe Festival (2019-2022) and Great Plains SPCA (2016-2017). While she does not have children of her own, she is a doting aunt to her nephew and three nieces who live in New York. 

With a successful career in sports and entertainment marketing, we still wondered… what is the hardest part about leading this particular project? Katherine explained, “I am trying to convey to stakeholders how big this actually is for our region. We’ll have more eyes on us than ever before, and we need to be prepared to welcome the world!” She also feels additional pressure having a quarter-finals match here, as it is so far into the tournament schedule, and that provides some additional challenges of its own.  

What’s next for Katherine Holland? “After 2026, I’m going to take a very long nap! Seriously, I haven’t had time to think about much beyond the World Cup. But one of the most exciting things about this project has been the opportunity to connect and work with people from across the other 15 host cities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I’d love to continue to build on those relationships, and I can’t wait to see what opportunities may present themselves.” Our personal recommendation for Katherine – turn off your phone when the World Cup is over! 

Our entire city should and will be so grateful to Katherine for her dedication and passion in bringing this very special colossal event to Kansas City. It allows us to present ourselves to the world in the very best light possible, showing that we are a city that values all of the meaningful things in life, whether that is the arts, education, technology, or sports. We were meant for this challenge, and Katherine will lead us to meet it with grace and a lot of planning!

Featured in the March 23, 2024 issue of The Independent.
By: Anne Potter Russ


Anne Potter Russ

Anne is thrilled to be working with The Independent again, and even happier to be with some great people. Having served as editor from 2005 to 2009, it is a pleasure to be able to connect with the readers of this timeless magazine. Anne and her husband, Norbert, live in south Leawood, and have two grown kids, Diana and Nick, as well as two rambunctious dogs.



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