Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Upgrading KC stadiums hot topic

July 11, 2001


— Lamar Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs are one of the most profitable franchises in the most successful sports league in the country. He says he'd be willing to write a personal check for as much as $30 million to help renovate Arrowhead Stadium.

David Glass' Kansas City Royals are money-draining, small-market losers at a time when baseball's entire economic structure is under review.

Very understandably, Glass is playing his cards close to the vest in the continuing debate over how, when and where to upgrade this town's two major sports venues.

Should expensive improvements be made to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums? Should the city concentrate on building a new baseball stadium downtown and trying to revitalize that moribund district? If a new baseball stadium goes up, would Hunt and the Chiefs demand a bigger slice of the pie for themselves?

"I wouldn't rule out anything," Glass told The Associated Press Tuesday from his office in Bentonville, Ark.

"If we are going to explore building a downtown stadium in Kansas City, (an idea) which suddenly bubbled up, a major contribution from our family is not something we would consider. But they are throwing around some pretty big numbers.

"We continue to work on finding ways to upgrade and renovate Kauffman Stadium and make it more competitive with all these new stadiums being built."

Estimates go as high as $150 million each for the improvements the Chiefs and Royals want. Both teams seek, among other things, to install luxury boxes, widen concourses and add bathrooms.

Additional women's restrooms are particularly needed at Arrowhead.

"Thirty years ago, nobody foresaw how women's interest in football and their attendance at games would go up so dramatically," said John Friedman, executive director of the Jackson County Sports Authority.

Jack Steadman, chairman of the Chiefs, said the team might be willing to put as much as $30 million into the project. The rest would come from state taxpayers and a bi-state tax that would be shared by people on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the metropolitan area.

Voters will decide the bistate tax issue in November of 2002. Traditionally, Kansans and Missourians have had trouble agreeing on such things.

"We don't have enough answers yet," Glass said. "Once we decide what direction to take, however, we do need to all come together. Right now it seems we are split 50-50 on people wanting to renovate Kauffman and wanting to explore the practicality of a downtown stadium."

The Royals have commissioned a study of the feasibility of a downtown stadium.

"We really haven't gotten far enough along with this yet to figure out what we would or would not do," Glass said.

One argument for keeping Kauffman is the fact it is one of the most beautiful stadiums in the major leagues. Opened in 1973, it's now the 12th-oldest in baseball. But Kauffman and Arrowhead both have been extremely well maintained.

Visiting reporters frequently praise the stadiums and the ambiance of the Truman Sports Complex.

"It would be one thing if the stadiums were run down, but they are not," said Friedman.

"The stadiums are beautiful. They're so easy to get in and out of. And that's another thing about going downtown. The Royals would lose a lot of parking revenue, something in the neighborhood of $10 million. I don't know if building downtown would compensate for what they would lose in parking."

There seems little doubt that the Chiefs will get what they want at Arrowhead.

"We can bring Arrowhead up to and equal to the best stadiums in the country instead of building a new one," Steadman said. "It's a question of whether you want to pay a little now or a whole lot later."

Kevin Gray, executive director of the Kansas City Sports Commission, sees one clear goal the entire area should have.

"Our number one priority should be to extend the Chiefs' and Royals' leases as far into the future as we can, essentially through our lifetimes," he said.

"If we were to lose Major League Baseball and the NFL we'd never get it back."

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