Let me begin by saying I am a Royals fan. I was raised Royal. Forever Royal. Old enough to remember some of the team’s less fortunate marketing catchphrases, such as “We’re in the big league now.” But I am also a specialist in the commercial construction industry, and I’d like to weigh in on the possibility of a downtown baseball stadium raised by Royals primary owner John Sherman at a press conference on Sept. 14.
Sherman said that the team is listening to the community and will “evaluate our options.” So, I’d like to propose an alternative for consideration: Keep Kauffman Stadium and build green infrastructure instead, including a fast light rail system from downtown to the Truman Sports Complex.
With this idea, we can construct station stops across our beautiful city that can double as a commuter train for our residents. There could be an express line for both Royals and Chiefs games.
Ever since this idea of a downtown stadium has been circulating, it’s filled me with such disappointment because of its lack of imagination. I get it as a baseball fan. There are some enviable parks out there with some really pretty views past the scoreboard. But I’m not just a fan of the game. I’m a true-blue Royals fan. And Kauffman Stadium, though older, is still shiny from its renovation. And it consistently gets kudos as one of the most beautiful stadiums in the major leagues. In other words, it’s not broken, so why fix it?
I also dread the idea of all the problems that would come with a downtown field of dreams: higher ticket prices, a nightmare parking issue and the thought of all that money going to something that is truly optional while our city could be upgraded so well by creating much needed infrastructure. (And bye-bye to the Kauffman Stadium name, and hello to something awful and commercial like Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field.)
This could be a first route of a much better public transportation system that would be a step toward linking our many diverse communities. Our city’s East Side is as much a part of our beautiful city as our thoroughly trafficked Westside, Country Club Plaza, Waldo, Brookside and other popular destinations. I think of the route that a light rail line could travel through, and the stops it could make close to the 18th & Vine Jazz District, Van Brunt and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard. Infrastructure could be built around the stops, adding vitality to more neighborhoods.
For decades, I have been all over this town seeing so many parts that could be a whole. Kansas City, like much of the rest of the United States, needs to recognize that we are perhaps entering a new era where we can’t coast on TIFs that are solely based on entertainment and tourism. We also have to support the people who supply so much of the labor in our city center’s well-heeled attractions.
I implore our city’s leadership to use some vision to create new infrastructure that could sprinkle more prosperity on some parts of our city that have been relatively neglected for decades. Wouldn’t a city rooted in equity and expansive light rail be a nice place to call home? The best cities in the world have modern public transportation systems. Such a plan could raise our Midwestern “Paris of the Plains” profile to national prominence, while also filling more seats in our current baseball stadium.
Let’s keep the Truman Sports Complex whole as a unique testament to Kansas Citians’ love of professional sports. I’ll maintain it would be a win-win as we’ll get to keep our beautiful K and also promote job creation, city modernization — and the start of erasing our dividing lines that have plagued this town for too long.
Mary English is a sustainable construction professional working at a leading regional nonprofit focused on reducing energy use in our buildings and transportation.