Downtown Baseball? A Swing and a Miss
On the October 12, 2017 episode of KCPT’s Ruckus, panelists discussed the topic of moving Kauffman Stadium to downtown Kansas City. A panelist who has worked as a consultant to local governments and who has steered public funds toward private baseball business in the past said we ought to be having this conversation. More recently, the editorial board of The Kansas City Star said “Kansas City should launch a metro wide conversation about a decision with far-reaching consequences.”
Exactly what does it mean to have the conversation? It will doubtlessly require money spent on consultants to draft options, hold meetings, and the like. And what will those plans drive toward? Probably an expensive public finance project to buy a new stadium for a billionaire.
We’re spending money so we can spend money. It’s absurd.
It gets worse. The Star’s editorial board included this nugget:
City Manager Troy Schulte said his conversations with [Royals owner David] Glass associates have left the door open to that possibility.
“He (Glass) is saying, “Give us some options,” Schulte said. “He has not said no.”
In other words, the team owner isn’t even asking for any of this, he just didn’t refuse. And why should he? He’d be a fool to stop the city from offering him the same type of taxpayer subsidies that cities make all the time. As a result, city leaders, including the Star, are eager to start spending money on it.
Wait, there’s more. The Star makes clear there is additional cost beyond the taxpayer outlay of funds on consultants and construction subsidies:
Other possibilities remain east of City Hall and near the 18th & Vine Jazz District. “You’ve got to reserve it, or you’re losing development sites,” Schulte said.
Schulte is saying the city would intervene in the market to “reserve” sites, effectively stopping anyone else who might have a better, unsubsidized, idea for development. (One can imagine that at the time of construction, the then-mayor and council members will point to the lot they have kept vacant and say, “look at this lot no one has developed, we need this downtown stadium to address blight.”)
If Kansas City’s wealthy sports team owners want to consider other locations for their stadiums, and spend their own money doing so, they are free and welcome to do so. But the idea that taxpayers should take the initiative and spend money now so we can maybe spend money later is completely wrong.