Page 4 of 7
Johnson County voters gave the idea a resounding "no" on November 7, 2006. The following week, it was reported that OnGoal was considering Bannister Mall, among other sites.
OnGoal made its interest in south Kansas City official in April 2007. In cooperation with LANE4 Property Group Inc., OnGoal applied for tax-increment financing, a program administered by the Economic Development Corporation.
TIF allows developers to capture a portion of the taxes that their projects create. A powerful tool, TIF was designed to lure developers to distressed or blighted areas. In Kansas City, though, developers have used it to build shopping malls and condominiums in the city's wealthier precincts.
Following the example of other MLS owners, OnGoal proposed more than a soccer stadium. The plan also included 12 "tournament style" soccer fields, a hotel, retail stores and office space.
OnGoal and LANE4 put the project's value at $943 million. They wanted TIF to cover $267 million. Aaron March, a lawyer with a reassuring mien, told the TIF Commission that the development represented Bannister Mall's "salvation."
Even critics of the use of TIF in Kansas City had to admit that the plan had merit. Bannister Mall was genuinely blighted. Soccer proposed a cure.
Of course, soccer's viability as a spectator sport in the United States remains a work in progress.
As LANE4 prepared the Wizards' proposal, English superstar David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, an MLS team. League officials hoped that Beckham's stateside arrival would captivate celebrity watchers as well as sports fans who resist Major League Soccer because they know the best players are in Europe, competing in the Champions League.
Alas, Beckham's heavily promoted Galaxy debut did not land with the desired impact. A recently published book called The Beckham Experiment notes that the ESPN2 audience for Beckham's first game was smaller than the one that had tuned in to watch a women's softball game the previous month.
While Kansas City's economic-development whizzes had been bending over for Beckham, they missed another opportunity — an opportunity that looked as if it had solid financial backing and forward-thinking planning. Had locals not been so myopic in their focus on the stadium as savior, they might have remembered the lessons of Bass Pro.
In a space rented cheaply from Austin, the office of the 3-Trails Village CID succeeds in transmitting the idea that stagecoaches used to drive over what is now 93rd Street. Cattle skulls hang from the walls. A checkerboard waits for players to grab a stool. Some of the American flags reflect the gradual nature in which states joined the union. "This is our sales room," Austin says.
The CID board meets in a room furnished with church pews. Austin believes the pews increase the dignity of the discussions that take place. "When you raise the bar, you affect human behavior," he says.
One behavior that the CID has tried to influence is the manner in which cars and trucks use 87th Street.
In 2003, the CID hired a transportation engineer, Michael Wallwork, who specializes in roundabouts. Advocates of New Urbanism like roundabouts, which calm traffic and create visual interest. Wallwork proposed four roundabouts for 87th Street in an effort to transform the road "into a beautiful, appealing, public space that will spark redevelopment interest," according to his feasibility study. Wallwork also suggested ideas for improving Bannister Road, which he called "unattractive" and "designed solely to move vehicles."