Archive for February, 2023

Almost every week for the last few years, three guys who love Kansas City and have been around here for decades have met almost weekly to talk about the state of the nation and the city.

I’m very happy to say I’m part of the group. The two others are Dan Margolies, who recently retired as a reporter and editor at KCUR, and Lonnie Shalton, a retired partner with the the Polsinelli law firm.

Lonnie, who publishes a weekly email newsletter called “Hot Stove” (usually about baseball) brought us together.

We suffered mightily through the Trump administration, with Dan threatening to move to Portugal if Trump was re-elected, but we pulled through. Now we are feeling a lot more optimistic about the national situation, believing that Trump’s winning days are behind him and that Biden, or whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be, will prevail in 2024. (The Senate remains a major source of concern.)

The last few months, one of our biggest topics on the local front has been Kansas City Royals’ owner John Sherman’s proposal to construct a downtown stadium and retail/office/entertainment district.

Initially, like most people I spoke with, I was adamantly opposed to a downtown stadium. The biggest question to me and many others has been, “Who’s going to pay for it?” — with the implication that it would require a new and significant sales tax, either city- or countywide.

In addition — again like most people I spoke with — I’ve always been very fond of the Truman Sports Complex and think it has a lot of good, serviceable years left. (It might have been the best deal in the history of stadium construction: two stadiums, acres and acres of accessible parking, plus access roads, all for the unbelievable price (back in the early 1970s) of $100 million.

Now, Dan isn’t a sports fan and the downtown-stadium issue doesn’t stir him one way or the other. But Lonnie…that’s a different story.

He’s a huge baseball fan, a downtown advocate, and he knows John Sherman.

Several months ago, when the downtown-stadium issue first came up at one of our weekly meetings, Lonnie said something that, I believe, will turn out to be incredibly prescient.

“I think there’s a sense of inevitability to it,” he said.

As much as I chafed against the Sherman proposal, I grasped immediately what he meant. Unlike the previous Royals’ owner, David Glass, Sherman is a Kansas Citian. In addition, he’s rich and powerful, and he’s the majority owner of one of Kansas City’s two major sports franchises. That combination of factors, in and of itself, guarantees a significant amount of momentum to almost any semi-reasonable-sounding initiative he would propose.

Lonnie then added something else that stuck with me. “I think he (Sherman) wants to do something good for Kansas City.”

…As the weeks have gone by — and with three public sounding-board meetings having been held by Sherman and the Royals — things seem to be unfolding just as Lonnie had predicted.

Here are the first dominoes that have fallen into place…

:: After first announcing it would be a $2 billion project, which set people’s hair on fire about public-side funding, Sherman came back and said the stadium would be $1 billion and a retail, office and entertainment district would account for the other $1 billion.

:: Then, splashing water on the burning scalps, Sherman said the team would not ask any more from Jackson County taxpayers than continuation of the existing (since 2006) three-eighths-cent sales tax that has been financing hundreds of millions of dollars of improvements that took place at the Sports Complex.

:: On Wednesday night, at the third and final public meeting, Royals’ officials said that only union labor, led by the powerful Heavy Constructors Association, would be used in construction of the side-by-side projects. Moreover, The Star’s Kevin Hardy reported, “It’s likely that labor unions will aid any public persuasion campaign, particularly if the team sticks to its commitment to hire union crews.”


Interestingly, Hardy began his story with wording that aligned with Lonnie’s supposition that a downtown stadium is almost inevitable.

“Union labor,” Hardy’s lead paragraph began, “will construct a new downtown stadium for the Kansas City Royals, team officials said at a community meeting Wednesday evening.”

If Hardy did not think it was inevitable, he would have said, “Union labor would construct a new downtown stadium…”

Speaking as an objective observer, Hardy should have used the word “would” because, after all, it’s not a certainty that Kansas City will proceed with a downtown stadium.

But Hardy let slip, probably inadvertently, where he thinks the project stands. And that’s right where Lonnie said it stood soon after Sherman first proposed it.

Get ready for downtown baseball, Kansas Citians. It’s rolling our way.

And, by the way, I’m now on board — assuming Sherman is not playing games when he says the project won’t require a new tax. If, on the other hand, it turns out to be a bait-and-switch deal, the perception of Sherman as an honest broker who wants to do “something good for Kansas City” falls apart.

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