Do the Royals Need A Downtown Kansas City Ballpark?
In the middle of last week the voices who desire that the Royals play in downtown Kansas City made their voices heard again. Yet I, and many in the Facebook world reacting to news reports, disagree.
Peter Goldberger, a downtown Kansas City baseball advocate, told KMBC that Kansas City made a mistake when they put in the Truman Sports Complex where it is. "We didn't mind that we were turning our cities into doughnuts with holes in the middle. And baseball went along with everything else." At the same time Pendulum, a local Kansas City design firm, released their vision of a downtown ballpark on their website and KansasCitylovestheRoyals.com.
KansasCitylovestheRoyals.com says Pendulum's vision will bring eight new restaurants, a thousand new housing units, fifty thousand square feet of commercial space, 26 premium suites, and a 30,000 seat ballpark to downtown Kansas City.
Royals Review editor Max Rieper told KSHB.com "he's open to the idea of moving the Royals downtown, but it has to be the right idea. He said Pendulum's idea has some cool elements like luxury housing and a dog park, but overall, he feels it's a bit generic." He went on to tell the television station if the taxpayers got on board supporting a downtown stadium they'd have to do it delicately because of many fans affection for, and the history associated with Kauffman Stadium.
I'm not a fan of a downtown ball park for many reasons. First, Kauffman Stadium is a perfectly fine ball park in good condition. It's been taken care of for 47 years. Secondly, why should the tax payers pay the freight for a new ball park when we have a perfectly good one? If John Sherman wants to spend his money to build a ballpark for the team to play in downtown, fine. But he's already said there would definitely need to be some public money involved.
Additionally, there's a history at Kauffman Stadium and I think it's an excellent example of the modern ballpark. Yaknow, the parks designed between the time the Dodgers and Giants made tracks for California, and the White Sox's misguided ballpark that used the K (very poorly) as inspiration. Most of the classic old ballparks with the exception of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are gone. And Kauffman and Dodger Stadium are the perfect examples of the modern ballpark.
Finally, when it comes to downtown or neighborhood ballparks be careful what you wish for. I've gone to Wrigley Field in Chicago many times. It's not easy to go to a game there, unless you live on the north side of Chicago. Traffic and congestion. Lack of parking. What parking there is is expensive. And the selling point of bars, restaurants, entertainment is great if your in your 20's and part of the baseball experience is getting boozy with a sea of other Cub fans. Or your idea of a fun pregame or post game dinner is a crowded loud restaurant.
Don't get me wrong, every baseball fan should experience Wrigley Field at least once. And Wrigleyville does have a lot of good restaurants, bars and clubs. Which are great in the winter and when the Cubs are on the road. Less so with forty thousand baseball fans in the neighborhood.
The drive for baseball in downtown Kansas City, to me, has less to do with what baseball fans want. And everything about what developers want to help them market downtown Kansas City. Do you really want and need bands and bars and restaurants as part of your baseball experience? I'm not sure you do. And I'm not sure the average baseball fan or family is going to come early, or stay late, after a game for a meal or a couple of cocktails. And if it was, don't you think the area around the Truman Sports Complex would have been developed beyond the area hotels in the past 47 years?
I read the comments for several of the stories on the stadium that television stations posted, and my impression is, many Royals fans at this point don't feel inclined to support a downtown ballpark.
Concerns include Jackson County taxpayers who have paid the freight on the sports complex from the start, who'd like to not pay more for a new stadium. To those afraid a downtown stadium would ruin tailgating. Not to mention those who feel downtown is congested enough. Are worried about parking. And those who haven't had easy experiences getting to events at Sprint Center.
There's eleven years left on the Royals lease at the K. As the years tick off, it'll be interesting to see how the fans feel. How the team feels. And how downtown Kansas City fares. All of that will determine where the Royals play as the 21st Century marches on. One thing is for sure, baseball isn't the driving factor in bringing a ball park to downtown right now. It's everything else the stadium brings with it.