Op Ed
September 8, 2006

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More about a soccer stadium than youth
by Wayne Flaherty

Homeowners against Soccer Welfare (HASW) has been formed to bring the truth about proposed professional soccer projects to all tax-burdened Johnson County homeowners. With the new owners having been counseled by Lamar Hunt, Johnson County taxpayers can expect the Wizards will demand the same kind of continuous, never ending, and ever increasing financial support from them.

The state of Missouri, Jackson County and Kansas City, MO spend $8.5 million per year on their two pro teams. This sports welfare has yielded barely any economic development as witnessed by the stark areas around their stadiums. The situation is no better around Kemper Arena. Sports arenas do not attract development. Huge bond issues are demanded to keep the teams in town and in a style that pleases them. Taxpayers are left with only “braggin‚ rights” to show for their hard earned money.

HASW views the soccer proposals as a three-part scheme: youth fields, the stadium and retail development.

The Johnson County soccer proposals have begun with deception and deliberate vagueness. No one believes that the JOCO Parks Department will spend millions of dollars each for soccer fields — the excess money is for facilities to support the soccer stadium. One cannot examine the plans for any of its three components because there are none — for public access anyway. There is no explanation of how the Parks Board plans to spend $75 million. There is no plan on how the stadium is to be financed except public acknowledgements that taxpayer support will be demanded. There is no public access to any plans for retail development, which is almost certain to also demand taxpayer assistance. The forces behind this three-legged financial soccer albatross probably have good reason to hide their intentions. As with Bi-State II, Smart Moves, Oz and other projects, the proponents don’t want the taxpayers to know how much they will be forced to pay.

The rush to get the soccer issues on the ballot was spearheaded by the JOCO Parks Board. Recently, the board held a sham public hearing. Residents expressed their views and concerns, immediately after which the board voted to do what they were going to do anyway — submit the bond issue to the JOCO Commission.

The rush to get the proposal on the ballot is easy to understand when you realize it’s less about youth soccer and more about financial support for the Wizards stadium. By putting the issue on the Nov. 7 ballot, the Wizards owners saved the $400,000 cost of a special election. That allows them to spend the $400,000 on a media campaign for their proposals. By putting the issue to a vote that is only 2 months away, public involvement is minimized and grass roots organizations must work harder to mount effective campaigns.

HASW will continue to expose the truth to Johnson County homeowners until Election Day. For more information, call 913-831-2140


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