The unofficial Texas state motto is "Don't mess with Texas." The unofficial motto here in Kansas City is "They don't fight fair."
We heard it from city leaders when Indianapolis stole the NCAA offices from Overland Park. The whining echoed when Dallas managed to coax the Big 12 offices away with false promises. Now the Big 12 basketball tournament is headed to Dallas, where college basketball is about as popular as gun control.
In-state rivals Texas A&M and Texas Tech drew 4,264 fans for their game in Lubbock on February 24. This is the basketball "hotbed" Kansas City lost the tournament to. Embarrassing? A more accurate word would be "typical." Kansas City doesn't deserve to keep the Big 12's showcase event, which supposedly generates a $20.5 million economic impact from the men's and women's tournaments combined.
For almost a decade Kansas City has proposed, debated, discussed and ordered feasibility studies on the viability of a new downtown arena that would showcase the Big 12 tournament, the Blades, the Attack and world-class events while providing offices for such organizations as the NCAA and the Big 12. What do we have to show for all that hot air? A hump on the dump that we call Kemper Arena.
The city spent $23 million to add 2,142 seats, upgrade the walkways and concession stands, add four restrooms and put a glass entrance on the east side of the building. The new seats sit so high and are so steeply stacked that vertigo overwhelms climbers who assault Yikes Peak. This is the kind of "solution" that Kansas Citians produce to combat the Texas takers.
The fault does not lie solely with civic leaders. Every one of us who sits back and accepts pothole patches for crater-sized problems deserves blame for the stagnant state of our downtown.
What has Dallas been doing to welcome Big 12 basketball fans in 2003? The city has created one of the most attractive, jaw-dropping downtown developments seen in this country. The 19,200-seat American Airlines Center will anchor a 65-acre downtown Dallas development project dubbed "Victory."
The Dallas arena will be among the finest in the world. Each seat will be equipped with power outlets and Internet access -- not just the posh seats in the high-dollar suites but every seat in the arena.
"The building will incorporate state-of-the-art sound, crystal-clear video displays, bar-coded ticketing that can be read with scanners and enough cellular-telephone capacity to serve a full house without a busy signal," writes Richard Alm of The Dallas Morning News. "We're positioning American Airlines Center to be a technological showcase for digital media," says the NBA's Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. "We will make the technology in American Airlines Center as easy to use as the telephone. You won't have to be a geek," says former Mavericks owner Ross Perot Jr., president of Hillwood Development Co.
The Big 12 basketball tournament will play in Dallas for two years and then return to Kansas City in 2005. What will the Big 12 find when they return to our town? Another $25 million Band-Aid on Kemper as is currently being discussed? Typical Kansas City thinking: a matching hump on the west side of the old barn.
Around town and within these pages, folks are discussing how a new baseball stadium or arena could revitalize downtown. The public seems inclined to support an anchor arena that commands respect, boosts commerce and inspires greater dreams. It is time we started to swagger instead of stagger. It is time we built a victory of our own.