WHB invents big-name support for a downtown ball park.

A Big Scoop 

WHB invents big-name support for a downtown ball park.

Sports talk radio has a profound effect on how the rest of Kansas City media cover teams and athletes. Sometimes, that's a bad thing. Last week, Kevin Kietzman, WHB's part owner and afternoon talk show host, manufactured a big "scoop" that dominated local media for days. Suddenly, everyone was talking about building a new baseball stadium downtown after Kietzman gave listeners the impression that David Glass, the Royals' owner, no longer supports renovating Kauffman Stadium, but is backing a downtown stadium similar to the $646 million project St. Louis proposed last week.

After listening to Kietzman's Glass interview as it aired, I was stunned by the amount of spin Kietzman later applied to Glass' words -- and how others in the media jumped aboard WHB's legless story. "We've broken a lot of stories here over the past three years," the breathless Kietzman told his audience. "But I've never had goose bumps on my arms like I had today." There was a slight problem with Kietzman's bumps: They were filled with silicone.

Three times during the interview, Glass told Kietzman that he was not backing any proposal to build a downtown stadium. Kietzman asked Glass if he was talking with HOK Sport, the famed Kansas City architectural firm, about designing a downtown stadium. "Well, no," answered Glass.

Kietzman rephrased his question, and Glass again answered in the negative. "We had not approached it that way, Kevin. What we've been doing is we've been working hard with HOK, as to how to improve Kauffman Stadium to make it more competitive with all the new stadiums. Our emphasis has been there."

These were not the answers Kietzman wanted. "Am I hearing in your voice that you're leaning toward [building a downtown stadium]?" asked Kietzman. "No, I can't lean any way until I know more about it," answered Glass.

From those denials sprang newspaper, television and radio stories portraying Glass as a crusader for a downtown baseball stadium. But the day after Glass' interview on WHB, he was asked by KMBZ's Don Fortune if the stories held any merit. "No, but thank you for asking," said a chuckling Glass.

Frank Boal of WDAF-TV obtained a tape of Glass' interview from WHB and introduced the clip on his Wednesday sportscast by saying: "Glass told 810 WHB radio this afternoon he'll start preliminary talks with city officials about the plausibility of building a similar complex [to St. Louis'] for the Royals in downtown Kansas City." Boal then played this inconclusive cut from the Glass interview: "This ought to be considered. I think we have a responsibility to listen to it. I think there is some urgency to getting our plan together and then I think we need to talk to the governor and the various other people that we need to talk to and say, 'All right, here's what works best for Kansas City.'" Boal will begin working at WHB next month as a morning talk show host. Maybe it's a coincidence that he and Kietzman both got this story so wrong. More likely it's a slow summer with two months to kill before the Chiefs' season kicks off.

John Bondon, the chairman of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, is not surprised. "The media thrives on stuff like this," says Bondon. "I understand that and I don't mind as long as they know what they're talking about. I've talked to David Glass a hundred times and he has never mentioned this to me."

The Royals are tied to a fifteen-year lease until 2015. The lease was made nearly airtight a few years back by the Royals themselves to prevent a new owner from moving the club. "After it's all said and done we'll probably have a contract that extends the leases to 2040," Bondon says. "There won't be a sports facility in the country that can touch the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex."

WHB has worked hard over the past three years and swamped the competition at times by breaking such big stories as the volatile Carl Peterson/John Tait/Ethan Lock negotiations and the felony criminal charges leveled at Tamarick Vanover and Bam Morris. Unfortunately, the Glass scoop isn't in that league.

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