Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Arena Tax

For some reason, getting things done in Kansas City is a difficult task. I'm sure it's the same in any other city, but everytime we have a chance to do something that is good for the city, the anti-progress folks come out of the woodwork.

Right now, our mayor has put together a plan for a new, state of the art arena in downtown KC. She already has worked out an agreement with AEG (owners of the Staples Arena in LA, and owners of several NBA, NHL and MLS frachises) to help fund and operate the arena. AEG is also in the process of trying to lure an NBA or NHL team to Kansas City to make its home in the new arena.

Sprint has agreed to pay a naming rights fee for the arena to be called the Sprint Center. A blighted part of downtown has been acquired for the arena.

All the ducks are in a row. The only question now is how to fund the construction. The mayor put together a plan for the cost of the arena to be funded without hitting citizens of Kansas City: usage fees on rental cars and hotels.

The citizens of KC will vote next Tuesday to approve these usage fees. Not surprisingly, the largest rental car company in America, Enterprise, is funding an anti-arena tax movement in KC. Enterprise is based in St. Louis and they are spending close to $1 million on the campaign. That, I can understand.

What I don't understand are the local people who don't think this is a good idea. KC needs a new arena. The current arena, Kemper Arena, is something like 30 years old. It's located in an inconvenient area not within walking distance of any hotels. The NCAA is passing us up for basketball tournament games. The Big 12 is passing us up for its basketball tournament. Major concerts are passing us up. Kemper has done its job for many years, but its time has come.

The anti-arena-tax coalition says the plan is risky. I don't see the risk. AEG has a 35 year agreement to run the arena and will absorb any losses. Since the old Kemper Arena is profitable today, I don't see how a new arena could not be profitable. Even without an NHL or NBA team, the arena is booked with many other events. And, AEG is working on acquiring an NBA or NHL team, and both leagues have expressed interest in KC.

I'll be out voting next week - yes on Question 1. Once we get this arena done, then we can start working on a downtown baseball stadium...

No comments: