Now that the Kansas City Star has editorialized against giving public money (at least, not too obviously) to new Royals owner John Sherman for a new downtown stadium, time for the paper to back up and ask whether Sherman is likely even to ask for money, or for a new stadium. Their answer: Nobody knows or has even asked, but maybe!
Could a new owner usher in the possibility of the Royals pursuing a downtown stadium? People close to Sherman say he hasn’t discussed the idea specifically, but clues exist to suggest he might be warm to the idea.
Sherman was part of an investor group that was looking at building a downtown stadium in St. Louis to support an expansion Major League Soccer team, according to a 2016 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The idea cooled when then-Gov. Eric Greitens said he would oppose public funding for the project.
Sherman also sits on and was a chairman of the board of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, a consortium of business people who look to guide the city’s future. The Civic Council is helping fund a new study by the Downtown Council of Kansas City’s urban core, an update to earlier studies referred to as the Sasaki Plan, which in 2001 and again in 2005 served as something of a blueprint for the rejuvenation of the city’s core in the years that would follow.
That’s several steps away from even circumstantial evidence: Sherman once was part of a St. Louis soccer team ownership group that wanted to build a new stadium, and is on the board of a business group that gave money to the downtown business group that is doing a study of things that could help downtown — including possibly a baseball stadium! You can practically see the blueprints dancing before his eyes!
Articles like these are tough: On the one hand, news outlets like the Star should be applauded for trying to get out in front of a story by investigating the new owner’s possible plans before he reveals them. On the other, when the result is just some vague tea-leaf reading plumped up with lots of speculation about possible sites and recitation of how other cities just love downtown stadiums to bits, it starts to feel like less of an investigation and more of a suggestion, along the lines of the Buffalo News’s campaign for a new Bills stadium whether or not the Bills owners even want one.
While the more typical dynamic at play is for news outlets to be overly attuned to the desires of team owners and prominent elected officials — because they’re powerful, because they control access to locker rooms, because they issue lots of press releases that can be written up without taking too much time away from the ten other articles you have to file that day — they can also have other reasons for talking up new stadiums: Because other local business leaders want them, because the papers want something that will grab readers’ attention, because their sportswriters are envious of other cities’ schmancier press boxes. The Star isn’t quite at Buffalo News levels yet, but given that the paper’s editorial board was already talking up the “incredible opportunity” of a downtown stadium months before Sherman started looking into buying the team — not to mention the paper’s scare tactics to encourage K.C. voters to approve public funds for stadium renovations back in 2006 — it’s certainly cause for concern. At least K.C., unlike a lot of other cities, still has an alternative weekly in town, so here’s hoping the Pitch will consider taking a slightly less pre-sold look at the downtown stadium prospects. Better hurry, the Royals’ lease is up in only 12 more years!