A Missed Chance at Greatness


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Jan 22, 2006
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A Missed Chance at Greatness
Jun 02, 2006, 3:05:06 AM by Bob Gretz

If I were Lamar Hunt right now I would be frustrated, bewildered and just a bit ticked off.

The Chiefs founder opened the door to sports greatness for the Kansas City community. And, what did the business community of this city and the politicians of Jackson County do over the last two weeks? They decided against being great. They closed the door.

Because of what Hunt has done over the last 47 years in professional football, there was a Super Bowl scheduled for Arrowhead Stadium, or more accurately, an Arrowhead Stadium with a roof. This was no maybe. There were no expensive presentations that had to be made to NFL owners. There were no fancy gifts to try and sway voters. The local business community, the Chamber of Commerce, the Sports Commission didn’t have to lift a finger or a dollar. It was the greatest bargain in the history of cities going after major sporting events. No committees, no fancy video presentation, just a single man: Lamar Hunt.

Back in April, Jackson County voters approved renovations at the Truman Sports Complex, but did not approve the rolling roof. I remain convinced the reason the roof proposal failed was the way the issue was worded on the ballot. It was a confusing mishmash put together by politicians and lawyers that did not tell the voters that this roof would bring a Super Bowl, Final Four and assorted other major sporting events to the city. Political consultants who crafted the advertising for the issue failed to adequately explain what the roof proposal was about, how it would come together and the events that could come to the community.

So the voters took half a loaf, and assured that the Chiefs and Royals would stay at the Sports Complex for the foreseeable future. Only because of Hunt, did the opportunity of a Super Bowl stay alive. Another vote could have been – should have been – scheduled, with the focus solely on the roof. I may be in the minority, but a better job by the proposition writers in ballot language and by consultants in the advertising would have brought passage of the roof idea.

That’s not going to happen. First the business community and then the politicians ran away from the chance to lift this community to a position among the top 10 sports sites in this country. The Super Bowl would have been a one shot deal, although there’s no bigger shot in the American sporting world than the week of the NFL championship game. But the Final Four could have become a regular visitor, something that has not been in Kansas City since 1988 and won’t ever return with the current facilities. So could other sporting events and spectacles, limited only by the imagination of local promoters.

Turns out the money crowd and the politicians that follow them don’t have any imagination. They’ve decided to keep Kansas City in the middle of the pack. They didn’t want to take a chance on investing in greatness. Maybe that’s the right way to go. If the deep pockets and politicos don’t think their constituents are capable of handling an event like the Super Bowl or Final Four, maybe the better part of valor says no to pushing for the big events.

But let me ask this question: given the actions of the local business community on the roof issue, why would we have any anticipation that this town would successfully support a franchise in the NBA or NHL at the new Sprint Center when it opens? Should the new arena get a regular tenant like a pro hockey or basketball team, the only way it will survive is with tickets purchased by local businesses and sponsorships purchased by local businesses and luxury suites and premium seating paid for by local businessmen.

This community’s chance to be ranked among the major sports centers in the country is not going to come from watching the Kansas City (Orlando) Magic play the Charlotte Bobcats in some meaningless NBA game in February. And it isn’t going to come from watching the Kansas City (Pittsburgh) Penquins play the Minnesota Wild in some meaningless NHL game in January.

Rather than struggle to fill an area 41 times a year, Kansas City could have sat back, opened the doors and watched the sports world come to them with the Super Bowl, Final Four and other events.

That chance came with building a facility to support those types of events. Lamar Hunt gave Kansas City an opportunity for greatness. The community said no.

I wouldn’t blame Lamar Hunt if that answer left him frustrated, bewildered and a bit ticked off.

The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.
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