The Star’s downtown ballpark survey: Majority support idea, many have to be convinced

·4 min read

The survey says ...

Many things when it comes to a downtown ballpark. But a majority emerged on the get-to-the-point question of “Should the Royals move downtown and play in a new stadium there?”

Of 2,343 responses to an unscientific survey conducted by The Star, “yes” was the answer from 56.1%.

Responses came from throughout the nation. Landis George weighed in from Chicago. He grew up in the Northland and lived in downtown Kansas City. Bring on downtown baseball, George said.

“With intentions of moving back to Kansas City in the somewhat near future, I’d love to be able to experience downtown baseball in my hometown as I have in Chicago,” George said.

But the majority of responses, about 70%, came from the metro area, with the largest chunks coming from Johnson County, Kansas and north of the river in Missouri.

Kevin Martin from Roeland Park likes the idea of the move from the Truman Sports Complex, which the Royals have shared with the Chiefs since the early 1970s.

“Kauffman is a great ballpark, but in my view a downtown stadium would connect the Royals to the city in a way that Truman does not,” Martin said.

Many see a new ballpark as pushing the city forward.

“It must happen for the vitality of the city,” said Cedric Fullard of Kansas City, North.

Where to park?

Parking and traffic for a downtown location were big concerns. Asked how much of a concern, 47% of fans who attend games in person listed “very” concerned, and another 27.7% said they were “somewhat concerned.”

Accessibility has always been a strong point for Kauffman Stadium, which was one of the first baseball stadiums that opened away from downtown. The Royals and Chiefs were envisioned as regional franchises, with fans arriving from throughout the Heartland, and easy in/easy out of the parking lots was touted when the complex opened.

Fans have grown used to the convenience.

“Where we’re looking at there’s no parking at all,” said Pat McLear, a season-ticket holder from St. Joseph. “I have friends in Nebraska who have said they’ll never attend another game if it’s moved to downtown.”

With ample parking and room to spread out, tailgating historically has been a popular activity at Kauffman Stadium. About 47% of survey respondents said tailgating was very or somewhat important to their game experience. And fans don’t want to see that change. Some 66% said tailgating should remain an option at a new ballpark.

Why is it needed?

Kauffman Stadium received $250 million worth of renovations that debuted in 2009, and several who responded to the survey questioned why a stadium in good shape needs to be replaced.

“We have a beautiful ballpark now,” said Melissa Fuimaono, a season-ticket holder from Blue Springs. “We’re always at or near the top of any list of major league ballparks. I don’t want to stop going to games but (moving) would put a limit on how many times I’d go.”

It’s just a bad idea altogether, said Marc Magana of Raymore: “We have one of the most beautiful stadiums in all of baseball and it would be a totally foolish and unnecessary expense to move the Royals.”

Along with parking, several who responded had questions about transportation to a new ballpark. Depending on the site, a downtown stadium could be close to the existing streetcar line. Otherwise, would extending the line be an option?

The Royals haven’t made any possible sites public, but The Star’s survey listed four theoretical locations. None of the four received more than 36% support: Near T-Mobile Center (formerly Sprint Center) and the Power & Light District received 35.8% of the votes, followed by near the Riverfront/City Market area at 27.7%, near 18th and Vine or East Crossroads District at 20.8% and near Liberty Memorial/Union Station with 15.7%.

Who will pay?

The vote also was close on the price tag question: Who should pay? Kauffman’s latest improvements were the result of a 0.375% sales tax approved by Jackson County voters in 2006.

The largest share of respondents, 37.5%, wants to hand “more than half” of the bill to John Sherman, who leads the Royals ownership group. Extending the current sales tax was favored by 35%, and 27.6% said no to any taxpayer money or subsidies.

“It just seems like a waste of public money to abandon a perfectly good stadium and spend tons of money on infrastructure and changes needed to support a new stadium when we have so many unmet needs,” said Karrin Huhmann of Kansas City, Kansas.

Dan Bowers of Kansas City said he has mixed feelings about a new Royals home.

“Support in longer term, but consider an extension of five years in Kauffman to get more useful life out of it before mothballing,” Bowers said. “Implicit with the move downtown would be the expectation for the continued experience of light rail and increased number of runs on game nights.”

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