It's been a bitter couple of months for the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals in regards to convincing voters and legislators to raise money for stadium improvements. After BI-State two failed to pass amongst Missouri voters earlier this year, the Missouri Legislation followed suit by nixing any plans to fund stadium improvements for the Truman Sports Complex this past week.
That means the Chiefs could be on the move sooner rather than later. With the success of the NASCAR track in Wyandotte County, the Chiefs might be convinced to move their team to the Kansas side if local officials can get funding for a new football stadium. If not, they could leave the area altogether.
The Kansas City Royals already had their chance to move from the Truman Sports Complex earlier this spring. After ownership torpedoed a proposal that would have landed them in Downtown Kansas City with a new baseball park, they chose the low road and decided to push for improvements to a stadium that fans rarely see. Of course they had no guarantee those funds would be available for the stadium improvements; nonetheless they pulled the plug on the downtown stadium just thirty days after telling city officials they had interest in moving the team.
Unlike the Chiefs, the Royals are in complete disarray, management is dazed and confused and ownership cares more about pinching pennies than spending dollars to improve the quality of players on the field. Nor do they have a permanent manager to lead their youth movement.
But in the Kansas City sports climate, most fans really don’t care all that much for the Royals; at least not at the moment. Once they killed the downtown deal, I vowed never to attend another game at Kauffman Stadium and I’ve held true to that promise. Until they start spending the Yankees money on players and they honor their word to city planners to build a downtown stadium; they’ll be nothing more than a team most fans will only watch on TV because they don’t want to watch the glut of summer reruns.
But for the beloved franchise of this great city, the Kansas City Chiefs, apathy is not the issue. This is a football town. It used to be a baseball town but as the Royals are in the grips of a 20-year slide into sub-mediocrity, the Chiefs rule the conciseness of the sports landscape in Kansas City. While the Royals slip somewhere behind the Kansas Jayhawks, Missouri Tigers and Kansas State Wildcats depending on the time of year.
Football used to be just a fall and winter sport for fans. Now it’s virtually a year round event with free agency, the college draft and off-season workouts. The Chiefs earn the market share when it comes to banter amongst the Kansas City fan base. Regardless of the time of year, local talk shows, newspapers, TV stations and websites continue to make them the flavor of the day. With a stellar 2005 off-season, the entire city is rejuvenated from coast to coast. But this past week some are wondering and beginning to worry; that someday this organization might fly the coop to Los Angeles or another U.S. City.
With the move in Jefferson City last week to reject the funding, some are already speculating that the Chiefs could be power brokers for a deal that would move the franchise to the city of Angels. Now granted that’s a HUGE stretch and most likely far from the truth.
Still remarks made by Clark Hunt about the possibility of the Chiefs moving have to be taken seriously. I think his words were derived to make some Missouri legislators nervous about their own re-election campaigns. Who would want to be sitting in those seats when their own apathy led to the departure of one of the most stable franchises in all of professional sports?
We’ve all taken Chiefs Founder and Owner Lamar Hunt for granted. He’s vowed never to move the team to another city and remains loyal to this community but he’s not getting any younger and it’s clear he’s not happy with the lack of progress to revamp Arrowhead. Though he’s not a resident of Kansas City, it’s a second home to the Hunt family and he has invested millions upon millions of dollars into the infrastructure of the Missouri side of the state line. He’s brought such business landmarks as Worlds of Fun, Oceans of Fun and Hunt Midwest; not to mention the Chiefs to our city. His counterpart David Glass instead pushes for more Wal-Mart stores in our neighborhoods.
By the way, have you been to any of his stores in the area and tried to find Chiefs merchandise? They’re generally sold out while Royals items are discounted each and every day and are a mainstay on the shelves and racks throughout the baseball season.
That alone should serve notice as to where the focus should be in regards to getting the Chiefs a new stadium. It’s time for those in Kansas to start making bids to lure the Chiefs to the Land of Oz. Either Kansas City Kansas, Lenexa or Overland Park Kansas needs to drum up $500 million and deliver the Chiefs what they deserve; a state of the art football complex. One with a retractable roof; built by one of the worlds premier sports architectural firms located in our own backyard.
Recently the Chiefs told the NFL that they would not be endorsing a package to bring a Super Bowl to Kansas City between 2012 and 2024. That bif was of course predicated on the Missouri legislation passing the funding to improve the Truman Sports Complex.
Now the Chiefs face more seasons with fans complaining about the poor plumbing, crowded concourses and more rumors that this organization might head out of town in the next five to seven years.
Even further with the new $650 million stadium being built in Arlington, Texas for the Dallas Cowboys, Arrowhead could be out of the regular rotation to host the Big 12 Championship game. Right now they are guaranteed a shot at the title game every other year. But with the new facility in Texas and more forward thinkers in the lone star state then the conservative minded folks in Missouri; they could eventually find a way to eliminate Kansas City from hosting the game on a regular basis.
So that leaves the brethren in Kansas to get this deal done for the Hunt family and reward them for bringing this tremendous franchise to Kansas City back in 1963. It’s time for the Kansas legislation to do what the Missouri legislation failed to accomplish.
If it were my decision, the first place I’d think about moving the Chiefs is near the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City Kansas in Wyandotte County. They have the land, the highway structure to support the Sunday traffic and they have the vision that has made the area near the NASCAR track one of the premier locations in entire metropolitan area.
But do they have the money to fund the entire $500 million deal all by themselves? I don’t think they do because of the resident base. But they are players and generally players find ways to get deals like this done. They might have to include Johnson County in the mix and they can do that very easily. No more of this Bi-State tax agendas between Kansas and Missouri. Instead they should fund the project within the two largest counties in the state and agree to share in the revenues. Now that won't be easy but its beneficial for both counties to work together to get this deal done.
Let’s assume for a minute that $500 million would procure the land, building of the stadium and deliver a Super Bowl to Kansas City. The economic impact of that one game could generate upwards of $200 million dollars to the local economy.
If the Kansas side can procure a sponsor of $100 million for the naming rights, then the job gets even easier to find money for the remaining balance needed to build the stadium.
Finding a sponsor should not be a problem. If we can get $60 million for the Sprint Center, the county can certainly find someone to pay $100 million for the Chiefs new stadium. That would leave $400 million to secure the funding. If Wyandotte or Johnson County passed a modest ¼ cent sales tax on alcohol, tobacco, food and entertainment, the balance of money could be collected and used to maintain the complex over the next 20-25 years.
In addition, part of the money could be used to build a state of the art Soccer park for the MLS Wizards who are currently on the market. They could also add an indoor/outdoor training facility and a new office building on the site. In addition, they could demand the Chiefs move their training camp back to the Kansas City area in exchange for the taxpayers agreeing to build them a new home.
If Wyandotte County does not have the stones to pull this off; Johnson County certainly has the money to fund the venture but they've shown litle interest to date.
Still that's why it’s important they work together. The primary reason to push for a joint venture between the two counties is that Wyandotte County has the experience in landing NASCAR and they know how to build the infrastructure better than the players in Johnson County. They’ve yet to tackle a major endeavor like this and they’ll need to rely on those who have made Wyandotte County a happening place.
As stated, Johnson County has the money to put this deal together all by themselves. After all it’s the second richest county behind Beverly Hills, California in America. In fact, if you went door to door in the pricey Hallbrook neighborhood on the Kansas side; you might be able to raise the $500 million in an hour or two to fund the entire project.
The largest city in the County, Overland Park might have trouble finding the land and the highway infra-structure to build the stadium within their city limits unless they tore down some of the unused portion of the Sprint Campus. They were burned badly by Sprint and that land could be better served for something like a new stadium rather then empty office space that will never be used.
But more realistically they’d probably have to find something on the south side of town. Another possibility is the City of Lenexa, adjacent to Overland Park. They have some prime land available along I-435 near 87th & 95th street that would be a perfect place to build a stadium and training facility. It already has tremendous highway access and the only hurdle will be to secure the land at a fair price.
If the power brokers in Kansas make this happen, then Missouri will have little choice but to try and pony up the money to fix Arrowhead or move the Chiefs downtown near the Sprint Center to kill the talks of the franchise moving out of the state and into the hands of the forward thinkers on the Kansas side.
As for the Royals, they'll get whatever leftovers or bread crumbs the state can muster to appease their modest renovations plans. On the other hand, the Glass family could get a windfall from State Legislators in Missouri if the Chiefs cross over the state line into Kansas. They will likely get whatever they want and might end up getting the last laugh.
But for me this entire apathy by the legislation in Missouri is a hard pill to swallow when residents of Kansas City give tax dollars to fund sports stadiums in St. Louis and we can’t get them to help us improve the Truman Sports Complex.
The decision makers in Jefferson City understand this as they continue to show more interest in procuring funds for St. Louis than Kansas City. After all, St. Louis has more Fortune 500 companies, generates more taxes, has more residents and pays more in campaign contributions than those on the Kansas City side.
Just look back at what St. Louis based Enterprise Rent-A-Car tried to do when the vote was being waged for a hotel/car rental tax to pay for the new Sprint center in downtown Kansas City. Money was being passed left and right to try and swing the vote that would have killed the tax to pay for the facility. It didn’t work because the city of Kansas City fought back. But the driving force to combat Enterprise came from a group on the Kansas side; who thought it was there civic duty to help fight off the greedy folks at Enterprise. If not for them, it might have failed.
It was clear that the power players in St. Louis didn’t want a new arena in the area because they didn’t want Kansas City to lure an NBA or NHL franchise. They want to keep Kansas City a second class sports town and they’re still succeeding. If you don’t think those same factions didn’t have something to do with the Missouri Legislations decision to balk at giving the Chiefs the funding they need; you’re naive.
So that leaves the Chiefs in the catbird seat. Clark Hunt, who has gradually taken over the reigns of the organization, is no fool. Nor is he going to let the sentimentalities of his father stand in the way of getting a better stadium deal on either side of the state line or for that matter on the west coast.
He sees franchises with horrific ownership groups land one sweet stadium deal after another. He wants his slice and honestly this city needs to deliver the Hunt family a stadium that they deserve for giving us 42 years of NFL Football.
It’s becoming clearer by the day that Missouri Legislators will never approve the necessary funds to appease the Chiefs. If something is not done by 2006 to make just modest improvements to the Truman Sports Complex, the city of Kansas City could be in default of both leases with the Chiefs and Royals. That means both franchises could leave town altogether.
With the probability of that happening, Kansas Legislators and the power brokers who run the two most successful counties in the state; need to start making plans to build the Chiefs a new home within the next five years.
Last weeks vote meant the clock is ticking. It’s now time to take the ‘Border War’ to a whole new level!