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The OutField: Toasting a gay sports bar

by Dan Woog

May 14, 2007

This sounds strange: A gay bar in Kansas City is owned by a recovering alcoholic.
But this is even queerer: It's a sports bar.
"Gay sports bar" is no oxymoron. Since opening in 2005, Outa Bounds Sports Bar & Grill has joined a small but growing number of gay gathering places in America's big cities filled not with drag queens, leather daddies, or party boys, but with people who, were they straight, would feel completely at home surrounded by flat-screen TVs, scarfing down chicken wings, and root, root, rooting for the home team.
But they're not straight, so gay sports fans often feel uncomfortable hanging out at sports bars.
"Those are testosterone-driven places, and sometimes drunks make homophobic comments," says Doug Knetzer, co-owner of Outa Bounds. "Kansas City is fairly liberal, but if gay people walked into a place where straight guys were watching a game, and then forgot where they were and made some comment about (Chiefs' tight end) Tony Gonzalez's butt, you don't know what might happen."
At Outa Bounds, no one worries. Gay folks hoot and holler just like straight sports fans when the football Chiefs or basketball University of Kansas (KU) Jayhawks play. But special cheers are reserved for Royals centerfielder David DeJesus, a decent player and definite hottie. Most Kansas City fans consider the local baseball team a lost cause, but at Outa Bounds, good-looking athletes are the gay antidote to "Sports Illustrated"'s swimsuit issue.
Owning a gay sports bar was not Knetzer's life plan. He had bartended in college, but then sold real estate (and entered an alcohol rehabilitation program). As he grew older – he's now 37 – he got tired of watching Chiefs games in friends' homes. "People kept saying they wished there was a gay sports bar," he recalls. "So Alan (Rogers, his business and life partner) and I started looking around for a place to start one."
One day Knetzer spotted a "for lease" sign on a property that for many years was a gay bar. The location – in the city's eclectic Hyde Park district – seemed perfect. Outa Bounds was born.
It has thrived ever since. Outa Bounds caters to every demographic, Knetzer says, but three-quarters of the clientele is gay. Most gay customers are sports fans, but some are not. The latter group, Knetzer says, is attracted both by the in-shape athletes who are regulars, and the party atmosphere.
As for the straight men, they simply want a place to enjoy a game. They may feel uncomfortable bringing girlfriends to a straight sports bar, where women are seen as fair game for every guy, or they may enjoy hanging out with a fun, sports-loving crowd.
Interestingly, just 5 percent of customers are lesbians – and they only come on weekends. "Lesbians are nesters," Knetzer proclaims. "The boys go out every night."
What they find inside the well-lit, airy Outa Bounds are 14 plasma televisions, pennants for pro and college teams, and signed photos of sports stars. The decor is like any American sports bar – though most straight bars don't hang photos of Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova in positions of prominence.
What Outa Bounds does not have is "8-foot drag queens towering over you," Knetzer says. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," he quickly adds.
But Outa Bounds is still a ÂÂ"gay" sports bar. Despite the appeal of the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks Рalong with NASCAR, World Cup soccer, and every other staple of sports programming Рthere was "a little struggle" the night KU basketball competed with a certain reality TV show. "We opted for the game, even though a lot of people wanted "American Idol,"" Knetzer says. "Sports comes first. But a customer who does a lot of traveling told me a lot of straight bars show "Idol," too."
As at many gay bars, the action is liveliest around midnight. Games are over by then, so Outa Bounds offers Texas Hold 'Em, pool and darts contests, and karaoke nights. (Openly gay former professional football player Esera Tuaolo wandered in one night and sang a few songs.) The bar also sponsors softball, rugby, football, and bowling teams, and participates in charity fundraisers like the AIDS Walk and Gay Pride.
Outa Bounds is such an established place that when the Chiefs were lobbying for a new stadium, they sent their cheerleaders there to chat up patrons. "At every other sports bar, they got hit on as soon as they walked in," Knetzer says. "Then they came here, and it was such a relief. They didn't have to be cute or flirty; instead guys offered to do their hair. They stayed and talked for hours."
They touched on many important sports topics – including, no doubt, Tony Gonzalez's butt.

{TAGLINE Dan Woog is a journalist, educator, soccer coach, gay activist, and author of the "Jocks" series of books on gay male athletes. Visit his Web site at http://www.danwoog.com. He can be reached care of this publication or at [email protected].}



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