Archive for Sunday, March 26, 2006

K.C. stadium vote reaches into Lawrence

Benefits by association will be lost if teams leave

March 26, 2006


An artist's drawing shows the planned rolling roof at  Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, Mo.

An artist's drawing shows the planned rolling roof at Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, Mo.

Doug Holiday doesn't live in Kansas City, doesn't work in Kansas City and certainly doesn't vote in Kansas City.

But when residents of Kansas City and elsewhere in Jackson County go to the polls April 4 in Missouri, they will be holding a portion of Holiday's livelihood in their hands.

Voters will decide whether to increase sales taxes enough to help finance $575 million in renovations and upgrade Arrowhead Stadium, home to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Kauffman Stadium, home to the Kansas City Royals. They also will consider a use tax to help finance construction of a rolling roof at the complex.

Approval of the measures locks the teams into their stadium leases for another 25 years.

Without approval of the sales tax, the professional teams would be free to shop around for new stadium arrangements - whether it might be remaining at the Truman Sports Complex, looking for a new home near Kansas Speedway or relocating to entirely new markets, such as Las Vegas for baseball or Los Angeles for football.

Holiday, like many of his business colleagues and residents in Lawrence, hopes it never comes to that. He's counting on both financing plans winning approval, which he considers essential to preserving the teams' ties to the region and also attracting a powerful lineup of special events: Super Bowl 49 in 2015, a Major League All-Star Game sometime between 2010 and 2014, and perhaps a Final Four, a major political convention or any number of tourism and sports draws in the decades ahead.

Without professional sports nearby, Holiday says, Lawrence could lose some of its benefits-by-association.

"On Chiefs Sundays, our lunches are incredible," said Holiday, co-owner of Bigg's Barbecue, 2429 Iowa. "If it's a Monday night, I've got to increase my staff by 50 percent. The Chiefs are big business. We live and die by the Chiefs."

But just how much benefit Kansas City's professional sports play in Lawrence remains an open question. Economists hired to tout the "Save our Stadiums" plan do not factor in the financial effects on the teams and their fans' spending in outlying areas such as Douglas County. And critics are focusing their efforts on wallets of residents in Jackson County, where the 3/8-cent increase in sales taxes would be charged.

Instead, Lawrence residents, business leaders and others are left to ponder the risks and rewards from what might happen from a vote in a neighboring state.

Looking to the future

Bob Moore, a spokesman for the Chiefs, said the region could use the upgraded complex to bid for a potential NCAA Final Four, or attract other major events - from political conventions to car shows.

"The direct economic impact of those events is huge," said Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau, who figures a Super Bowl certainly would fill Lawrence hotel rooms and boost consumer spending from out-of-towners.

But Billings and others see an even bigger effect in benefits that can't be measured as easily. Lawrence's proximity to Kansas City offers a connection to the metro area's major-league atmosphere, history and overall sense that the region can compete at the highest levels.

"We wouldn't miss them, economically, if they went away," Billings said. "But it's the perception of the whole area that would suffer."

Doug Holiday, co-owner of Bigg's Barbecue explains that business at Bigg's jumps 50 percent on Chiefs game days. On April 4, Jackson County voters will decide whether to approve financing for renovations to Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums.

Doug Holiday, co-owner of Bigg's Barbecue explains that business at Bigg's jumps 50 percent on Chiefs game days. On April 4, Jackson County voters will decide whether to approve financing for renovations to Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums.

Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director at Kansas University, said the Chiefs and Royals help attract students, faculty and staff to Mount Oread, knowing that such professional attractions and other amenities are less than an hour away.

Last season KU moved its home football game against Oklahoma to Arrowhead, generating a $1.23 million profit for Kansas Athletics Inc. and generating notoriety among potential recruits and others connected with the program.

"When you've got an NFL franchise that plays 40 minutes away from your campus, that's certainly a plus," Marchiony said. "That aura, that reputation, certainly helps us because it's another drawing card for the city of Lawrence and the University of Kansas."

On the ballot

Voters in Jackson County, Missouri, will consider two questions at the polls April 4: ¢ Question One: Shall the County of Jackson impose a countywide sales tax at the rate of three-eighths of 1 percent (3/8 percent) for a period of 25 years from the date on which such tax is first imposed for the purpose of improving, renovating and modernizing the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex to retain the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club at Arrowhead Stadium and the Kansas City Royals Baseball Team at Kauffman Stadium with leases for a term expiring Jan. 31, 2031? ¢ Question Two: Shall Jackson County impose a local use tax for the purpose of constructing, maintaining and operating a rolling roof over Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums at the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, with any revenue from the tax which is not needed for those purposes to be used for retirement of the obligations issued to finance improvements to the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, at the same rate as the total local sales tax rate, currently three-quarters of one percent, provided that if the local sales tax rate is reduced or raised by voter approval, the local use tax rate shall also be reduced or raised by the same action, such tax to be imposed only if a 3/8 of 1 percent sales tax for improving, renovating and modernizing the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, as described in Question One on this ballot, is approved by the voters? A use tax return shall not be required to be filed by persons whose purchases from out-of-state vendors do not in total exceed $2,000 in any calendar year.

Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Toyota Chevrolet Scion in Lawrence, is plenty familiar with the Chiefs and Royals, both as a fan and as a sponsor. He's had Chiefs players and luminaries make appearances at his dealerships, including Dante Hall, Kendall Gammon and Bill Grigsby; former second-baseman Frank White and longtime broadcaster Denny Matthews have been out to sign books and mingle with fans and customers.

He said the proposals likely would pass April 4, even though the teams themselves should be covering more of the bill. But if the measures don't win approval, he foresees an even more involved wrestling match that could lead to a push for a new Royals stadium in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and a new Chiefs stadium in Kansas, either by the Kansas Speedway or somewhere along Kansas Highway 10.

Push for proximity?

"If it's closer, it would be a better thing for Lawrence," he said. "People who come in from out of town, we'd be able to promote Lawrence a little bit more."

But no matter what happens, Schnaer said, Lawrence residents won't face much direct economic impact. Adding 3 cents to the cost of every $8 purchase in Jackson County likely won't drive car buyers all the way to Lawrence, and Lawrence residents likely could afford the extra surcharges - 50 cents per ticket for the Royals, $1 for the Chiefs - that the stadium projects would trigger.

"We're kind of separate from Kansas City, and that's good," Schnaer said. "We have the community feel, and we get the benefits from all the people from Kansas City who come here and do business."

The Chiefs sell about 70,000 season tickets, through 20,890 accounts representing individuals, businesses or other organizations. Of those accounts, 263 - or just under 1.3 percent - are in Douglas County.

There are 232 accounts in Lawrence and nearby Lecompton, or 1.1 percent of the total.

Fond memories

Jaime Smith, a Lawrence resident who has season tickets for both the Chiefs and Royals, wants the teams to stay.


Animated rendering of the proposed stadium. Enlarge video

Smith and his friends attend every Chiefs home game, buying their food and drinks in Lawrence to feed tailgating activities that often start as early as 9 a.m. And he reserves Royals tickets largely for business purposes. As a vice president for Community National Bank in Tonganoxie, he often treats clients, customers and other business associates to a game, allowing the trip to be written off as a business expense.

Smith has been around for big Chiefs wins, and still holds onto memories from the Game 5 he attended with his father and brothers during the 1985 American League Championship Series, a stop along the way to the team's lone World Series title.

"I was only 8 years old," Smith said. "I doubt I'll ever see that again with the Royals in my lifetime, but I think it's cool I was a part of that. I got to see that team. All I have now is a pennant and a ticket stub, but for some people those memories mean a lot."

As the vote approaches next week, Holiday, the co-owner of Bigg's, is hoping that Jackson County residents will consider the big picture when deciding whether to approve the tax increases.

He wouldn't mind seeing the stadiums being improved, if it means more business, recognition and spin-off benefits in Lawrence - and, most of all, preserving the presence of the Royals and Chiefs in the area.

"They are a precious commodity that makes us a major-league town," Holiday said. "It's not worth risking. It's worth investing in. The money you put in is definitely well spent."


lunacydetector 11 years, 11 months ago

i love the sports teams and know the benefits to the kansas city area and the owners of the teams.

it's too bad the team owners get to blackmail the people of kansas city, especially since they make millions of dollars per year off the teams. what i'm saying is, it's too bad the team owners don't reinvest some of their profits into the stadiums, instead of threatening to leave in order to get their way.

willie_wildcat 11 years, 11 months ago

I heard rumors that if the vote failed that good old KCK would take the teams. Of course they would be out by the Speedway.

Jayhawk226 11 years, 11 months ago

There was a great editorial that the General President of KMBC broadcasted last week...

...his message was there is simply no reason to vote "yes" unless you are a fan of the ballclubs and fear the teams leaving.

Contrary to belief, the two teams will not bring in any further $$$$, especially to at least match the $550 million+ tax increase payers will have contributed...because it will attract the same population of people it already attracts.

Out-of-town visitors are very rare in the NFL, and MLB ballparks are smaller and generally attract a small fraction of the attending fans. Add to the equation the Royals had the 2nd lowest attendance in the entire MLB, averaging just over 17,000 fans a game...the revenues just would not justify a tax increase. (Interest side fact, the KC Royals also attract the lowest attendance rating when they visit other ballparks. When the Royals play other teams and visit the other cities--attendance at these other ballparks is at a 57.5 full capacity rating. The lowest in the MLB. Nobody even wants to see the Royals when they those fans are already in their respective hometowns.)

And forget about the Superbowl and All-Star game offers...if you combine the potential revenues of both events, it would still only round out about $100 million dollars and maybe a little pride for Kansas Citians.

The evidence just doesn't support voting yes...

...unless you are afraid of the teams moving. And frankly, if I owned a ballclub that couldn't win and attendance figures have been as low as they have over the last 1/2 decade - decade...I'd consider moving too. Even if the taxpayers did throw some money to my stadiums. I need people in my seats and a winning team, not a fancier-looking ballpark.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 11 months ago

Every once in a while, we agree, luny. Let the owners make whatever improvements they want, but they should fund them from tickets sales, parking, concessions, etc. This is corporate welfare of the highest order, based on extortionist threats and outright lying about the benefits and costs of major league sports franchises to a city.

monkeyspunk 11 years, 11 months ago

Jayhawk226 has very good points concerning the Royals, and I would just like to add some points about the Chiefs.

Every other team in their Conference has either been to or won a Super Bowl in the last 12 years. Kansas City has failed to do so.

If they want Kansas City to give them a good place to play, they need to give Kansas City a good team to play there before the city commits to a new stadium.

We lose two crappy teams run by two crappy organizations? Oh well. KC is a Baseball and Football town, the professional slots for those sports won't stay vacant for long.

Sigmund 11 years, 11 months ago

Corporate welfare of the highest order? Yep, agreed. At least the voters get a chance to vote to pick their own pockets. I just wish all welfare schemes, corporate or otherwise, got the same public debate and vote.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 11 months ago

"I just wish all welfare schemes, corporate or otherwise, got the same public debate and vote."

In the current political climate, all corporate welfare is considered good policy, while any social welfare is considered theft. And that's about the level of debate that it gets in the current congress (both state and federal)

Atreides 11 years, 11 months ago

Oh yes, let Glass and Lamar shake down Jackson Co. by threatening to move. And we have Baseball Commish, Bud Selig, vote tampering by promising KC a single All Star Game. Wow.

I hope that the people of Jackson County calls their bluff.

Winning teams - not new stadiums or refurbished ones - put KC Area bandwagon fans in the seats. David Glass obviously doesn't care to put a contender on the field. Why should taxpayers fund his renovation scheme? As for Lamar, he at least tries to put a playoff caliber squad every year, but has not much to show for it.

If area businesses think this renovation scheme is so critical for their profits and the economy, they should ante up themselves. 'Privitize' it like they want to privitize social security and about everything else.

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