I've said it over and over: Kansas City isn't going to get an NBA or NHL team to play at the Sprint Center without a local owner. NBA commissioner David Stern told The Pitch the same thing. We just don't have someone willing to pony up the cash for a team. This said, Kansas City Mayor Sly James' comments about not wanting an expansion team to anchor the Sprint Center are disheartening.
The Star quoted James making shortsighted statements at a recent Kansas City Club luncheon: "It's a trade-off," James said. "If it's the (Los Angeles) Lakers, let's
do the deal. You'll know you'll fill it up. ... I know we don't want an
expansion team (hockey or basketball). If the Penguins came here, ha ha,
that would have been great."
We don't want an expansion franchise? Speak for yourself, Mr. Mayor. I realize that James was just throwing a name out there to make the
comparison, but Kansas City is never ever going to get a franchise the
caliber of the Los Angeles Lakers. Those franchises don't move.
Kansas City's hopes for a pro basketball team lie in whether someone is willing to (a) pony up for a mediocre, small-market team and move them here or (b) pony up for an expansion team. And James just said we're not interested in expansion? That's a pretty hard-line statement to make. I called up the mayor's
spokesman, Danny Rotert, to see if the mayor was really anti-expansion franchise.
"My hunch is that it's not as hard as it seems," Rotert told me. "I think he just really thinks we have to find the right fit to go forward with a team. We can't just experiment with it. We need to find the right fit for us."
Rotert cited the Sprint Center being one of the busiest arenas in the country right now. He said at some point, a decision will have to be made whether the 41 dates a pro hockey or basketball team would take up can do the same amount of business as the concerts and events that AEG is bringing to the Sprint Center now. He also believes that the city will have to assess whether it can support another sports franchise.
"I think we have to do some soul searching on whether we can
sustain another professional team in Kansas City," Rotert says. "I know
we often want that, but I think we have to make sure that it actually
makes sense, and it can be supported here. Not to just say that we've got
"I think he's right in saying that if there's a known team that could come here and bring some star power, I think it's worth doing the deal," Rotert added. "If we're just going to start from scratch, we really need to run those numbers and make sure that the attendance and revenue that we get out of a new team, whether that would be basketball or hockey, exceeds what we're making on the Sprint Center as a venue now."
Rotert said he's not sure
that it's worth replacing the concerts or events that AEG is already
"There are more questions in bringing a team in than there are answers," Rotert says. "It's not always the best thing to do."
It's great that the Sprint Center is pulling in major concerts and events now. But the new sheen is going to wear off the arena. There aren't a lot of opportunities to get teams to move, and when they do, they're looking for arenas with the latest upgrades (like the Sprint Center has now). The longer Kansas City goes without getting an anchor tenant, the older the Sprint Center gets, and the less attractive it becomes as a new home for owners looking to move teams.
If the day finally comes that Kansas City is looked upon as a potential landing sport for a franchise, then we'll have a new uncomfortable subject to talk about: arena upgrades, just like Oklahoma City had to do when Clay Bennett moved his SuperSonics from Seattle to the Ford Center.