Sports fans know the numbers: batting averages, yards per carry, field goal percentage. And the final notes. It’s all there, on the sports page, in very small print.
Somehow, however, when the cat turns into plans for construction of new sports stadiums, or by rebuilding the old ones, the numbers turn to mush.
Kansas City has talked about downtown baseball for at least 30 years. There are pictures and diagrams and would-not-be-good studies on every shelf. Yet if you ask how much a stadium would actually cost – and who would pay for it – the mumbling begins.
This is not a minor error. This is a fundamental and fatal flaw in any discussion of downtown baseball. Kansas City can’t tell if downtown baseball is a good idea until they have a reasonable estimate of the costs and funding.
Voters, for example, strongly supported a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport. This diary too. But the terminal proposal has always been fundamentally linked to its funding by airlines, just like hydrogen and oxygen produces water.
We almost certainly would have opposed the project if the Kansas City taxpayers had been responsible for it, which they were not.
Knowing the cost and financing of a stadium is therefore a question of critical threshold. But that’s not the only question, because the other part of the equation is value: Assuming you can find the money, are the new stadiums the best way to spend it?
New stadiums for both teams will easily cost between $ 1 billion and $ 2 billion. Don’t ignore the Chiefs, who will want what the Royals get. Any discussion of new or renovated facilities should include both clubs.
A sales tax of half a cent in Jackson and Johnson counties, collected over 30 years, would likely generate enough money, with significant contributions to leagues and teams, to build new stadiums.
If you have $ 1 billion or $ 2 billion in public money to spend, would you spend it on rough stages? Or would you spend it on transportation, or housing, or health care, or public safety, or education, or higher education, or whatever? Or would you like to relieve the poor overtaxed Kansas City?
All of the above is not an answer. Taxpayers’ money is limited. To govern is to choose.
Did you know: Less than half of the initial $ 102 million bond issue that built the Truman Sports Complex actually went to the stadiums. The rest was spent on flood control, improving streets and funding a public hospital. Then as now, there were other important needs.
Downtown Stadium Boosters are hoping voters won’t think too much about it. Instead, the same folks who promised you professional sports at the downtown arena will soon be promising an avalanche of community benefits from a downtown baseball stadium.
Development didn’t happen at the Truman Sports Complex, of course, and the Power & Light District will require a taxpayer subsidy for decades. The net financial effect of the downtown arena is murky.
Does Downtown Kansas City Really Need More Help? In previous decades, taxpayers have either instigated or subsidized an arena, the Performing Arts Center, the Power & Light District, three high-rise apartment complexes, the streetcar, a large convention hotel, other hotels, a shopping center near a new federal courthouse, Bartle Hall, The Star’s Press Pavilion and several office buildings. When will it be enough?
Now is the time to focus on these issues. Stadium boosters say the discussion is now purely conceptual, but be careful: more than one local politician thinks this is a done deal. Even now, Mayor Quinton Lucas is stepping away from all the downtown stadium talk = Maserati.
We cannot be distracted by pictures or wishful thinking. A vote could take place in 2024. The region deserves a sober conversation about downtown baseball and our other needs. So far we have no facts, which is the most important number of all.
This story was originally published October 19, 2021 5:00 a.m.