Sometimes it feels like everybody associated with the Sprint Center has had a logic and coherency lobotomy. AEG CEO Tim Leiweke is one of these people. When Sprint Center was being built, he guaranteed that it would snag an anchor tenant in the form of an NBA or NHL team. "I can assure you, there is going to be an anchor tenant," he proclaimed to The Kansas City Star in 2004. Eight years later, it looks like he was blowing smoke up our collective civic ass.
The same week that the New York Islanders, long considered Kansas City's best hope to bring the NHL downtown, decided to move to Brooklyn, Leiweke gave an exclusive interview to KSHB Channel 41's Jack Harry. Hockey fans, basketball fans or those who believe that corporations working with cities should keep their promises will find the interview a real blood-boiler.
Credit to Harry for asking pointed questions. But Leiwke, whose company manages Sprint Center, feeds Kansas Citians line after half-baked line about how the city doesn't need an NBA or NHL team. But he swears that he still thinks we'll get one eventually.
“What I love most about Kansas City is, you don’t need to go get a team in order to prove how great a community it is. Doesn’t mean we won’t get one in time. But in my opinion, be patient because you don’t need a team,” he tells Harry. He adds: "[I]f we bring an anchor tenant here and it doesn’t do well, it will kill this building. It will kill the downtown renaissance that’s been created here. So be careful. I still think a team’s coming.”
So, to recap: Eight years ago, Sprint Center needed an anchor, and, by God, AEG would scour the ends of the continent to bring us one. Now we don't need one, but sit tight, we'll get one anyway. It could kill the arena, but it's going to happen. Honestly, what the hell is that supposed to mean?
Further cause for rage comes when Leiweke condescends us into thinking that we don't know what's in our own best interest. We might think we want 41 games of hockey or hoops action downtown each year, but, he assures, it's better if we keep things caliente at the Sprint Center.
“This is singularly the most successful building in the country without an anchor tenant. It’s the third most successful building in the country," he tells Harry, as if the parade of press releases over the last few years hyping this fact had been ignored. “The problem is, if we brought an anchor tenant here, you take 40 nights [out of the annual schedule]."
That's not really accurate, though. Adding 41 home dates for an NHL or NBA team wouldn't take out those nights from Sprint Center's schedule. It could simply replace some events (Kenny Chesney, motocross, etc.) with anchor tenant games.
Then Leiweke drops the forehead-slap-iest load of the interview: “You get more sports events here, you get more great stuff here. Like, the [Miami] Heat. If you have an NBA team, the Heat weren’t coming.”
This faulty logic is epic. It's so false, it can induce hysterics. If we had an NBA team, we wouldn't get the precious Heat to come play a single preseason game in Kansas City. Think about that. Just curl up and bask for a moment in this bathtub of stupidity. According to this twisted thinking, one meaningless game is somehow worth more than an entire season of basketball.
Plus, Leiweke is just wrong. You don't need to be a great NBA mind to know that teams from the Eastern Conference (including the Heat) often play teams from the Western Conference during the regular season. For instance, this season, the Clippers are playing the Heat in Los Angeles and in Miami. So, no matter what conference a hypothetical Kansas City NBA team were in, the Heat would likely come to town. And those games would actually count for something. Never mind that we would actually have a goddamn basketball team downtown.
Finally, if you're not already passed out from blood loss caused by punching a wall, Leiweke says he thinks an NHL team is more likely to come to Kansas City than an NBA. In fact, he says, there are some potential owners in town who would like to buy a hockey team.
"We actually have a pretty good group of people here that are interested in buying a team, probably hockey more than basketball because it’s a great college-basketball marketplace," he says.
Who? Who is he talking about? Where is this cabal of wealthy Kansas Citians that is itching to bring the NHL to Kansas City? We know that years ago, a local group called NHL 21 was named as a potential owner to bring the Phoenix Coyotes here. But the last real noise from them came in 2009 before the NHL just bought the struggling franchise. Right now, it seems like they're not interested. How do we know this? Because there was exactly one NHL team for sale this year: the Coyotes. And NHL 21 was not in the bidding war for the team; it came down to two other ownership groups.
There could really be a potential ownership group that's trying to not go public yet. But, given the other yarns Leiweke spins in this interview, I'm not buying it.