05 April 2006

KC Royals/Chiefs to get renovations

The drama over Kansas City pro sports futures may have finally ended peacefully as voters approved a sales tax hike to fund $575 million of upgrades to Kauffman Stadium (Royals) and Arrowhead Stadium (Chiefs). The Royals and Chiefs had different problems. Middling attendance and small market size hurt the Royals. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have had 14 consecutive years of sellouts and a much more rabid fanbase, yet are limited by their lack of premium seating and facilities. After the talk over a Downtown KC ballpark finally died down last year, the two teams (and leagues) put together a large package of improvements that was broken down into two separate ballot items: the stadium upgrades (approved), and a huge rolling roof that could cover either stadium (rejected).

Pro-stadium groups clearly followed the "new digs" playbook to get the deal done. It's equal parts hope, fear, and subterfuge. Here's a recap of how it got done:
  1. Promote fear over the team(s) leaving. Not that Chiefs would ever leave, but fear motivates. A most telling quote came from Steve Glorioso, one of the campaign’s strategists: “I think the campaign struck the right balance between keeping the teams and the subtle threat that they might leave.” It also doesn't hurt to point out the economic impact losing one or more teams would have on the local economy.
  2. Get media support. The Kansas City Star (a Knight-Ridder publication) came out in favor of the project two days prior to the election.
  3. Break out the celebs and memories. Royals great George Brett and some current Chiefs players were out in public hawking the paper - the same paper that supported the initiative. The campaign didn't hesitate to evoke memories of past Royals/Chiefs glory days.
  4. If you have to have a vote, don't have it in November. Putting ballot measures like these on a spring or primary ballot tends to make for better results since supportive fans may be more likely to vote than those who simply look at the ballot as limited and otherwise not worthy of their time. This time the stadium package brought more voters than expected out of the woodwork.
  5. Outspend the opposition. The pro-stadium group spent $1.55 million on their campaign. The anti-stadium group spent $501. That's well over a 3,000-to-1 ratio.
Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. You may see some portion of this strategy used for an A's, 49ers, or Raiders stadium in the next year or two.


peanut gallery said...

I guess the Star was behind it. My word, that editorial sounded like it was written by the team owners themselves.

Wasn't KC promised a Super Bowl if this was all passed? I believe that the roof was one of the stipulations from the NFL, which means no Super Bowl for KC. Is that correct?

Marine Layer said...

That's right. No Super Bowl, no Final Four. After seeing all of the complaints about Detroit for the last Super Bowl, I'd just as soon have it in Southern California, Arizona, or Florida in perpetuity.

jrbh said...

Great summation of the KC vote; one small quibble, though. I'd attribute the 16-year hiatus for contending baseball in KC to management incompetence as much as anything else.

(And perhaps a little bad luck; the best Royals team during that 16-year period, albeit one that was still out of the playoff picture, was the '94 team, whose season was of course truncated by the labor dispute that year.)

Jeff said...


Nice GI Joe reference there. I haven't heard that in years!