publisher's note
March 3, 2006




Arrogance meets ineptitude
by Bruce Rodgers

March opened in town with a huff and a puff.

The Kansas City Star — seen by some Jackson County taxpayers as the “mouthpiece for the Save Our Stadiums crowd” — opened the month with a front-page news item unveiling not so veiled threats from the Chiefs and Royals with a “This is the last chance for voters…” remark reportedly said by Jack Steadman, vice-chairman and mouthpiece for the Chiefs.

The phrase “last chance” is what Chiefs fans have been hearing for over three decades from sports commentators when it comes to winning a crucial game the football team needs to advance into the post-season playoffs.

Though the headline meekly called out “Teams Stress Significance of April Vote,” the March 1 article was really one, long tirade — mainly from Steadman — about the Chiefs moving their consistently money making operation somewhere else and seeking a new stadium, and not even considering a new election for stadium funding if the April 4 vote fails.

In one way, the article seemed to be a reaction to the argument put forth by opponents of the 3/8-cent tax proposal, which would fund $575 million in improvement to Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. Opponents such as Craig Davis and Mark Esping say the 1990 lease requirements to maintain a “state of the art” facility can be met with a smaller tax increase, raising $60-$80 million over four years.

Esping and another stadium tax opponent, Terrance Nash, were on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Sports Authority. Esping says they were shown “by the architects that $60 to $80 million would keep the teams here until 2015.”

Steadman and other proponents oppose another election to fund what the Star article called “bare-bones improvements” to the stadiums. Steadman repeated the charge that Jackson County has failed to keep the stadiums state of the art and “that they are not even close to state of the art.”

Esping said that proponents like Steadman “don’t want to talk about what ‘state of the art’ means or if $60-$80 million would meet the conditions” of the state of the art provision in the 1990 lease.

The Kansas City Star for it part has failed to analyze the 1990 lease or how the state of the art provision applies to maintenance and improvements to Arrowhead and Kauffman.

The Star, also, has failed to investigate why County Executive Katheryn Shields and the Jackson County Legislature fail so miserably in fulfilling the county’s obligations in the 1990 lease. Some opponents believe Shields deliberately didn’t press the issue of fulfilling lease obligations because she first wanted more showy accomplishments completed so to set the stage for her mayoral run in Kansas City. Added to the distraction was the federal investigation into county contracts.

The observation seems to explain Shields soft bargaining position when negotiating with the Chiefs and Royals over what the teams would contribute toward renovating the stadiums. The Chief are putting up 23% of the $575 million package and the Royals 10%. And those amounts, opponents point out, are slanted toward revenue-generating renovations not basic bread and butter improvements.

Not doubt Shield’s marriage to the Save Our Stadiums campaign defects scrutinizing her management leadership when it comes to adhering to the terms of the 1990 stadium lease, particularly from a newspaper that in recent memory has never met a tax increase it couldn’t embrace.

Steadman’s hissy fit included allusions to the want of a new stadium in addition to rejecting another funding election if the April 4 proposal fails. Someone needs to remind Steadman that sports teams don’t have the power – at least not yet – to call or reject elections. The Chiefs are not a taxing power or a government entity, a point the Star article conveniently ignored.

And what if taxpayers approved a smaller tax for $80 million to meet the current lease requirements? Would the Chiefs and Royals refuse the money?

You have to wonder if building a new stadium for the Chiefs is right up Johnson or Wyandotte counties’ alley. Read between the lines of Steadman’s comments and one gets the feeling that he’s really bad-mouthing Jackson County and its poor, lesser affluent taxpayers, ready to hop the state line for the sunny tax-giveaway land of Kansas. Steadman is just the guy to have the two counties bidding for the rights to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to build his football team a dome stadium.

Included the same day as the article was a ludicrous editorial from the Star’s editorial board about how taxpayers better approve THIS tax proposal because if they don’t the cost of renovating the stadiums will go up. Duh! What’s the point of stating the obvious unless it’s to — as the editorial clearly points at — undercut the opponents’ point that the 1990 lease requirements can be fulfilled with a smaller tax proposal — a proposal the newspaper has yet to examine with any sort of an objective eye.

The arrogance of the Chiefs organization is an insult to the fans and taxpayers of Kansas City. The team’s ownership simply wants to bully and buy their way to a fatter bottom line with a cash-rich campaign using fear tactics.

As for The Kansas City Star: The newspaper remains a one-note cheerleading section for anything the business community wants.

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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