This meat patty was pretty entertained, for example, when sports columnist Jeffrey Flanagan sounded outraged when he argued a couple of weeks ago that sports stadiums' promised economic benefits are grossly exaggerated. He did his best to make it sound like people would be naïve to think building a downtown ballpark would help revive the city center.
That's great coming from a newspaper that only just got done crusading for a downtown arena. Last spring, the Star pushed like mad to convince citizens to spend $250 million to build an arena that doesn't even have a tenant. Why? For economic development, of course.
But the Star topped Flanagan's recent boneheaded rant just a week later, when it sent the same Flanagan to ask Royals owner David Glass -- in all sincerity, of course -- if he even wanted a damned stadium closer to where more people actually, you know, live and work.
Did it surprise anyone that Flanagan found Glass unexcited about the downtown project?
The Star's unsigned editorial writers, who have already trashed the notion of a downtown stadium -- at one point, they actually called it offensive to even discuss such a thing -- pounced on Flanagan's story, telling readers this past weekend that Glass thinks a downtown park is a waste of effort. Cartoonist Lee Judge then piled on to make it a trifecta.
Holy self-fulfilling prophecy, Batman!
What the hell is going on over there? Are Starlets afraid that home runs hit out of the new park are gonna break the windows on their new space-age-ski-lift press building?
Well, the Strip can fill you in a little. See, the Star is the sort of lazy, bloated publication that suffers from having no daily competition. With no one disabusing it of the very paternalistic view of the city it, um, serves, the paper has begun to think of itself as a sort of avuncular city planner. And it has developed a blindness to its own blatant biases against projects it hasn't adopted as its own.
The Strip, meanwhile, has been talking to the same people and has come away with a very different impression. Jon Copaken, chairman of the Downtown Council and one of the businesspeople working to put together a downtown ballpark plan, made it clear that he wouldn't be spending so much time on the project if he didn't think the Royals were interested. More important, he says he has been getting indications that Glass would spend more than the 8 percent he was willing to commit to Kauffman Stadium improvements under the stupid Bistate II plan. That's because a new stadium would be built with lots of profit-making amenities, such as corporate luxury boxes.
"We remain hopeful that they would be willing to significantly invest in a solution that provided them greater revenue opportunities," Copaken told this T-bone in typical business-speak.
Royals business operations honcho Mark Gorris, meanwhile, also gave us the feeling that the team is giving Copaken the steal sign. Sure, he gave us the usual tap dance about how the team was sitting back to wait while the city and county made up their minds about what to do -- build a new park downtown for something like $400 million, transform Kauffman for about $200 million, or pay about $80 million for upgrades at Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums to maintain the status quo.
It was obvious that Gorris wanted to make it sound as though the team was staying above the fray. But we pressed him about the team's willingness to chip in its share.
"I cannot at this point commit to specific dollar amounts," Gorris said. "But certainly, if you're talking about an option that would generate more profit, there would be some higher investment that would provide more benefit to the team."
Glass himself was also cautious when we heard from him later. But by now it was clear to us that the Royals were waving home Copaken like he was scoring from first on a double.
"We are intrigued by the recent discussions regarding a possible new downtown ballpark," Glass told us in his own careful way. "We want to both improve our ability to compete within Major League Baseball and provide lasting benefits to this great metropolitan area."
If we build it -- and build it with lots of moneymaking amenities -- they will come.
But let this lambasting brisket make itself very clear -- it doesn't want a downtown ballpark because it thinks such a venue would help the Royals win more games or allow the team to buy the contracts of flashier players. In fact, this issue has nothing to do with sports.
No, it's about the 1.8 million of us who live in this area who aren't at a Royals game on any given night. Those of us, that is, who still pay the taxes that will be spent to help the team no matter where it plays.
If it's our money, we oughta at least get something out of it. Namely, a livelier downtown.
Sure, sports-palace proponents always blow hard when it comes to predicting that new stadiums will bring lots of economic development to nearby neighborhoods. We already know what kind of economic shot in the arm 32 years of baseball at the K done for its neighborhood out east.
Would a downtown ballpark's economic benefits be exaggerated by its backers? Hell, yes. But does any rational person think that, with hundreds of thousands more people milling around downtown from April through September, a few more bars and restaurants wouldn't open?
In the 70-something days that business leaders and elected officials will now spend huddling about the issue before reporting back to us average folks, we anticipate plenty more red herrings from folks like Flanagan. We can just hear 'em whimpering.
There's no parking downtown for another stadium. What planet are these people from? Because if they really lived and worked in the lunar landscape that is downtown, they'd know that the city is cratered with more blighted open spaces than the near side of the moon. Parking? We have too much of that. That's why it's so freaking dead downtown.
There's not enough access downtown for a new stadium. This prime cut, which spent some time dry-aging in Los Angeles, finds it quaint when Midwesterners complain about traffic. Once again, the reality is the complete opposite of what the complainers would have us believe. If anything, there are too many freeways choking downtown.
If we build a ballpark for the Royals, we'll have to build an even bigger one for the Chiefs. These whining geniuses must think developers are completely dim. Greedy? Sure. But stupid? No. This silly argument is based on the idea that the current leases -- terrible agreements made with the teams in 1990 that were heartily endorsed by the Star at the time -- require every dollar spent on the Royals to be matched by a dollar spent on the Chiefs. But that premise is based on a naïve reading of the leases. And anyway -- HELLO! -- new leases would be negotiated for any change such as a downtown ballpark. Does anyone really think that those new leases would call for such a simplistic one-for-one equivalency?
See, it will increasingly dawn on this town that the Royals and Chiefs are two separate businesses and that treating them equally is downright idiotic. They have different needs, and we should have different expectations for each. For example -- and why doesn't the Star say this? -- it makes no sense to build a new stadium for a football team that will use it for only 10 or 12 days out of the entire year. Think Lamar Hunt will really turn down a reasonable upgrade to Arrowhead, even if the Royals get a new place downtown? Well, let's ask him. Or better yet, let's tell him, forcefully, that he won't.
And this is our favorite whine: If we just pay for the minimum upgrades, we can buy a decade and put off this discussion for at least seven years. Yeah, let's get those hot upgrades that we contractually owe the Royals -- like the new press box! Won't we be glad when we pass a new sales tax just so Jeffrey Flanagan and Joe Posnanski can enjoy the game in more comfort!
A new press box and some added concession stands will surely solve all of the Royals' payroll and competitiveness issues.
So what if we blow an opportunity to put a ballpark just walking distance from the new entertainment district downtown while land prices there are still relatively cheap?
That'll still look like a brilliant decision a few years down the road, won't it?
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.