KC newspaper editors: We only have 12 years to throw more stadium money at Royals, time’s a-wasting!

It’s been over a year since we last heard any talk about a new stadium for the Kansas City Royals, at which time Royals execs pretty much responded with Hey, you know you just renovated this place for us, but if you want to talk, we’ll listen. Back then it was downtown business leaders rattling the saber; it’s the growth coalition‘s natural ally, the local newspaper editorial board:

Downtown baseball could be an incredible opportunity. Just picture it: the burgeoning city skyline atop the outfield fence. All manner of new businesses popping up to cater to crowds filling downtown streets. That spin-off effect is utterly missing in the desert island that is the taxpayer-subsidized Truman Sports Complex. Taxpayers deserve more bang for their considerable bucks.

Yeah, we get the picture, Kansas City Star editorial board: Synergy! Nightlife! Burgeoning, so very much burgeoning! It is the same picture painted by downtown sports venue advocates the nation over, and it carefully ignores the fact that past sports projects have singularly failed to create the spinoff effects that were promised. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense — nobody in their right mind is going to open a new business just to cater to a throng of fans who sweep past once on their way in and once on their way out, 81 times a year, leaving the rest of the calendar dark — but somehow empirical evidence never seems to come into play in these sorts of dewy-eyed scenarios.

The Star does manage to acknowledge that the Royals are still tied to their existing stadium by a lease that runs through 2030 — a 25-year extension agreed to when the city gave them $250 million for renovations in 2006. But the paper’s editors managed to portray even that as a creeping deadline:

The leases for the twin stadiums expire in 2031. That’s a ways off. But make no mistake: The gravity of this decision and the steps to be taken if a downtown stadium is to happen are considerable. Decisions must be made during the next few years.

This all transparently reads as something written after those same downtown business interests — or maybe K.C. city manager Troy Schulte, who is all over this editorial — lobbied the editors to light a fire under the public that moar stadium talk needed nowwwwww! Nothing is likely to happen anytime soon, but clearly the power structure is laying the groundwork for the next round of Royals stadium-grubbing, whenever that kicks into gear; it’s worth keeping a close eye on, especially if you’re a K.C. resident still paying a 0.375% sales tax hike for the last round of sports subsidies.

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15 comments on “KC newspaper editors: We only have 12 years to throw more stadium money at Royals, time’s a-wasting!

  1. “You’ve got to reserve it, or you’re losing development sites,” might be the saddest quote ever from someone pushing this a growth opportunity. It’s basically we must do this now or someone else will develop this land into things we want without us needing to spend anything or really do anything.

  2. Neil – you forgot to factor in the additional traffic from those NBA and NHL games at the arena downtown. Oh, wait…

    Their argument is the same argument they used to justify the Power & Light entertainment district which they city has had to continuously dump money into. Not to mention all the condo and hotel subsidies and on and on and on.

  3. “nobody in their right mind is going to open a new business just to cater to a throng of fans who sweep past once on their way in and once on their way out, 81 times a year, leaving the rest of the calendar dark”

    That’s an exceptional point when you’re talking NFL (8 home games per year) but 81 days is 22% of the year. If you were on the fence about opening up a pub (or whatever) and I told you that 22% of your days would suddenly see a huge influx of traffic to the area it could definitely be the deciding factor in opening and even the difference between being profitable or not.

    The other reality is that if your city has a true winter football/basketball/hockey is way dicier weather-wise. I went to a hockey game last weekend and it was blowing snow–nobody was hanging out before or after the game. But a nice summer evening? Way more foot traffic and people checking things out.

    1. Even with baseball, 284 dark days a year is way too many. And the firehose problem remains even on game days — I’ve talked to restaurateurs near the Barclays Center, which is in operation 150+ nights plus, and they say it’s a struggle to seat that many people in the tiny window before/after games.

      In short, a sports venue is a nice bonus if you’re operating a retail business, but it’s not going to make an otherwise unviable location suddenly look great.

      1. Not to mention the people who stay away from that area because of the heavy traffic problems, drunk drivers, and police presence.

      2. It’s been well-established forever that many brick and mortar businesses make or break their year during the Christmas rush and that’s only roughly 30 days. (Creep has made it longer, but traditionally it was just the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas.) The tipping point comes SOMEWHERE so it definitely COULD be from baseball traffic; that’s inarguable.

        And your story about Barclay’s basically makes my point for me: They’re so busy those days they’re struggling to seat everybody. What a horrible problem for a restaurant owner to have. Did the owners tell you they wished that Barclay’s would be torn down so it’d make their seatings easier? I doubt it.

        Look, I agree with 95% of what you put on here but clearly there’s SOME point where there would be enough dates and extra traffic where local businesses would see a true bump. I’m saying that threshold likely occurs at or around 22%. If you want to say it wouldn’t happen until 30% or some nominally larger figure, no gripes from me. But don’t pretend there isn’t SOME figure out there where it’d become a true benefit.

        1. Oh, it’s a benefit. But it’s a benefit on the “on game nights we’re 100% full between 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm instead of 80% full” scale, not the “last one to open a restaurant across the street is a rotten egg” scale.

          Don’t take my word for it, though — look at all the stadiums and arenas, including brand new ones, that are surrounded by at best a one-block scrim of sports bars. The few exceptions are places like AT&T Park (or Wrigley or Fenway) where the surrounding development largely predates the sports venue.

          1. Oh, I’m quite familiar with the concept. I saw Coors Field in Denver totally transform that part of town. You’d struggle to find any Denverite argue Coors Field wasn’t the driving force behind LoDo taking off. It went from a largely abandoned area of old warehouses to restaurants, bars, ritzy lofts, etc.

            But Coors Field was 1) A new stadium for a brand new team and 2) In a part of town that was obviously desirable once there was a reason to start reviving it. Conversely, tearing down the old Mile High football stadium and building the current stadium did absolutely nothing from what I could see. It was directly adjacent to the old stadium so any benefits had been realized long ago plus it was never as prime a location for shops, restaurants or residences because it’s on the wrong side of the interstate and just a little too far away from the main downtown to be optimal. And, of course, 8 dates in the fall/winter doesn’t measure up to 81 in the summer.

    2. Since the current sports complex (Truman? When did they stop honouring the guys who actually paid for some of it?) has not only a professional baseball team but a fanatically supported football team as part of it as well, one might reasonably ask why – if the presence of these teams drives staggering commercial success for local business owners – the types of ancillary businesses described have not been built up around the sports complex since it began operation (in 1973, I believe)?

      If the presence of the teams is the major driving factor in the success of these businesses, then surely business owners must be chomping at the bit to move closer to where the teams are? Yet almost none have in nearly a half century. Are we to ignore this real world data in favour of theoretical gains from “downtown development”, which could happen absent a property tax exempt multiblock district for the ball park.

      On the other hand, if these businesses could only survive near a downtown sports facility because of the non-game related traffic, then we have to ask what the cannibalization effect will be on existing downtown establishments that may not be near the sports facility’s intended location.

      There exists a wealth of economic data to show that sports facilities do not “create” economic activity in a given city, they simply concentrate what is already there in a specific area. Even legitimate ‘ theoretical gains’ via spending from out of town fans tends to balanced out by the ‘local’ fans redirecting some of what would have been local spending into road trips to see their own team.

    3. I think it’s more like 22% of your days will be horrible since most people will stay away and it will only he busy for like an hour before the game. That is enough to drive most small business under in low margin businesses

  4. It takes a particular kind of chutzpah to produce a horrifically corrupted paragraph like:

    …The leases for the twin stadiums expire in 2031. That’s a ways off. But make no mistake: The gravity of this decision and the steps to be taken if a downtown stadium is to happen are considerable. Decisions must be made during the next few years…”

    And include the imperative “but make no mistake” as part of it. I count five separate grammatical crimes within four sentences…

  5. KC has always been a regional team, especially in baseball. Some time ago it was not uncommon for families from other states to stay the weekend and watch 2-3 games. They were usually good for 2 million fans a year until the strike and expansion to Colorado.

    There’s very little evidence that a downtown park would increase attendance, in part because people come from far away and want the highway access—especially true for the NFL.

    Cities and towns are all struggling with the retail revolution. Doubt the NFL will fix that.

  6. Its kind of sad seeing some newspapers prove Donald Trump right in regards to the media being the enemy of the people….I need to get out to Kauffman before its unnecessarily torn down…..meh….

    1. Also why the hell should Kansas City invest in a stadium for a sport that is allegedly dying due to old age and being boring? I love baseball but if its dying a new stadium for a dying sport seems like a waste of money.

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