Archive for Sunday, May 30, 1999

SUNDAY WOODLING COLUMN

May 30, 1999

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Last I heard, they were going to build an amusement park on the site of the old Sunflower Army Ammunition plant near DeSoto.

On a portion of the site, anyway.

I suspect plenty of ground will still remain to build a contemporary major league baseball stadium.

What a tourist mecca that would be for mecca-starved Kansas -- an amusement park and a big-league baseball park. And who knows what else would follow?

Sound far-fetched? Maybe. But who would have ever believed they would build a NASCAR track in Kansas? Ground has already been broken for the auto racing oval located at the intersections of Interstates 70 and 435 near Bonner Springs.

Back in the early 70s, when residents of Jackson County on the Missouri side dug deep into their pockets and purses to fund a unique dual baseball-football complex, Kansas City was roundly applauded for its vision.

Nobody else had two stadiums. Other cities -- Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and others -- settled for their professional baseball and football teams playing in the same stadium. Two stadiums? Get serious. Costs too much.

Then cities began building free-standing baseball stadiums -- charming places with atmosphere, egronomically pleasing and yet with a touch of the past. Fans loved them. Baltimore, Cleveland and Arlington were in the forefront.

Only the Chicago White Sox blew it. They built a new Comiskey Park next to the old one a few years back, and it's about as memorable as the snail exhibit at Shedd Aquarium on the Chicago waterfront.

Today, new baseball stadiums are either under construction or nearly open in Houston, Seattle, Detroit, San Francisco and Milwaukee.

More single-purpose structures will follow. Indoor baseball stadiums are going the way of artificial turf in outdoor stadiums. Times change. The Minnesota Twins played outdoors when they moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul from Washington, D.C. Then the Twins moved into the Metrodome. Hooray, everyone cheered. Now the Metrodome is a dinosaur.

After four years of playing in a tomb called Municipal Stadium, the Royals transferred to Kauffman Stadium in 1973. That was a mere 26 years ago. Yet how long will it be before the Royals are performing in the oldest stadium in the American League? It could be much sooner than anyone thinks.

Some day the Royals will have require new digs, and Kansas is the place. When it's time to bring the Royals into the 21st Century, they can bulldoze Kauffman Stadium and give the Chiefs more parking space around Arrowhead.

Let's split 'em up. The Chiefs can be Missouri's team and the Royals can belong to Kansas. If that's not a square deal, then Harry Truman was a Republican.

Missouri can keep the Chiefs and KCI -- they can retain the Amtrak station, too -- while Kansas maintains custody of the NASCAR track and the Royals.

Don't think it'll ever happen? Perhaps not.

But if it is impossible to dislodge the Royals, then Kansas should consider constructing a hockey-basketball arena in the vicinity of the new theme park.

Kemper Arena is vulnerable. Whose idea was it to build that white elephant in the fire-prone, difficult-to-access West Bottoms anyway?

If someone took the initiative to erect a new arena with acres of parking and a couple of hotels nearby -- not to mention other amusements -- the Big 12 Conference and others would ditch Kemper faster than you can say, "The stockyards were here? What's a stockyard?"

-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is cwoodling@ljworld.com.

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