Once again, Kansas University and KU Athletic Department officials have given Lawrence and the state of Kansas the backs of their hands.
KU officials announced earlier this week they have agreed to a four-year extension of the annual Kansas-Missouri football game being played in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the professional Kansas City Chiefs.
Originally, the move to Kansas City was a two-year deal, with school officials saying they didn’t know whether it would be continued. They said they would play the two games, then probably step back for a year or so to decide whether to renew the traditional game in Kansas City.
After the first game, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he would prefer to keep the games on the two campuses in Columbia and Lawrence. He added, however, that it wasn’t his decision to make. It would be up to Missouri’s athletic director and university president.
On the Kansas side, KU coach Mark Mangino said he would not voice his thoughts on the matter until after the second game. It is believed, however, he has favored the games being played on the university campuses but knows his boss, Athletic Director Lew Perkins, wants the games in Kansas City.
Over the years, Kansas City leaders and Kansas City Chiefs officials have tried to bring the KU-MU game to Arrowhead Stadium. KU officials have been receptive to the invitation, but MU officials said they would agree to it only if the games played in Kansas City were KU “home” games. The Tigers preferred to keep their “home” games in Columbia.
By one means or another, however, the much-hyped 2007 game was played in KC, and, again today, the game will be played in Arrowhead.
Supposedly, the game is played in Kansas City to give more fans the opportunity to see the game, give the student-athletes the opportunity to play in a professional football stadium and to allow the two schools to make more money from the game than if it was played in Columbia or Lawrence.
There’s reason to believe one of the major reasons for KU’s strong support for the game is that KU leaders want to win the support, appreciation and backing of Kansas City leaders. There’s such an intense desire by some on Mount Oread to be liked and admired by a relative handful of Kansas City’s powerful leaders.
Regardless of which team is designated as the “home” team, Kansas City, Mo., and the state of Missouri are the real winners in this arrangement.
Consider the sales tax dollars generated by this game: sales taxes generated by ticket sales and the added retail sales in Kansas City, Mo., the millions of dollars spent by those going to the game on concessions, parking fees, motel and hotel rooms and meals, and the Christmas shopping sales.
Although Lawrence could not accommodate the 80,000 fans expected to attend the game this morning in Kansas City, consider what it would mean to Lawrence to have 50,000 fans in town for the KU-MU game, particularly at this time with current economic conditions.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the Missouri game in Lawrence every two years rather than the powerhouse games KU officials now are scheduling with Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Sam Houston State, Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana and Toledo?
The KU basketball team is booked for more games in Kansas City than has been the case in recent years, and it won’t be too surprising if Perkins moves more games out of Allen Fieldhouse to Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
It is interesting to note that earlier this week, Perkins was presented the first “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City Civic Grant Award.” This was given to Perkins, “a leader who has been a good friend to Kansas City and who has made a lasting and healthy difference in our community at large.”
Perhaps this is what can be won by taking the KU home football game away from Lawrence and moving it to Arrowhead Stadium. Who knows what awards and citations can be won by moving more KU basketball games to Kansas City.
It’s difficult to understand why AD Perkins and Chancellor Robert Hemenway are so eager to please people in Kansas City rather than to please their fans and friends in Kansas and in Lawrence.
Whatever the reason, they have pushed the new four-year deal with Kansas City and the Kansas City Chiefs. History will show whether it was a smart move and what will happen if KU does not maintain the win-loss record of last year, or even this year, as a steady year-after-year occurrence. The eventual verdict on this giveaway to Kansas City will be revealed long after Hemenway and Perkins have departed Mount Oread.
In the meantime, giving up the KU-MU football game in Memorial Stadium, losing the thousands of fans coming to Lawrence and possibly losing more “home” games in Allen Fieldhouse to Kansas City’s Sprint Center is a tough pill to swallow.
Even tougher is trying to figure out why the longtime, tremendous, healthy and cooperative town-gown relationship here in Lawrence seems to be falling apart because of those in Strong Hall and Allen Fieldhouse.