In Major League Baseball’s Park Avenue offices on Thursday, the Royals and Kansas City were acclaimed by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred during the annual APSE Commissioners Meetings with a few dozen media members.
Not because of the team’s status as reigning World Series champions, though Manfred’s presence at opening day spoke to that.
It was by virtue of the groundbreaking Wednesday for the $14 million Urban Youth Academy — part of an emphasis on youth that Manfred considers crucial to the future of the sport.
Baseball’s ninth such endeavor, in fact, is groundbreaking in its own right in terms of budget, spirit of cooperation (including governmental support and major pledges from Royals players Sal Perez, Alex Gordon and Chris Young) and intended scope.
“I have to tell you that Kansas City is sort of the paradigm of (what) we would like to see,” said Manfred, adding that Royals general manager Dayton Moore’s vision and passion sets it apart.
Blocks away in the Major League Soccer offices on Fifth Avenue, MLS commissioner Don Garber spoke of the league’s aim for more regional relevance through expansion.
St. Louis has emerged as a frontrunner, in part because of the departure of the Rams but also because of the phenomenon of Sporting KC.
“Kansas City is arguably one of the great success stories of all time in our league,” he said. “There’s a market not that many years ago we were struggling to figure out whether we could stay there. We had plans to move the team at a time we were having difficulty getting somebody to take that team and move it and cover the losses, ongoing losses.
“And here we are, think they just went north of 100 consecutive sellouts (actually 74 in MLS play) in a relatively small market.”
For everything he’d then say about the frontrunner status of St. Louis, which now has a viable stadium site and group of investors and governmental support, he added, “One of the things that makes it more strategic for us is its proximity to Kansas City.”
Back on Park Avenue, NASCAR CEO Brian France met with media just weeks before one of its annual showcases at Kansas Speedway.
So even with the NFL turning to an off-the-record format for its part of this, the Kansas City region has a high profile here in the administrative epicenter of professional sports in America.
Just not one that’s likely in the near future to include an NBA or NHL tenant at the Sprint Center as it approaches its 10th anniversary in 2007.
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver was asked about expansion, he pointed to being in a collective-bargaining cycle and not even considering that possibility while “focusing on labor peace for (the) foreseeable future.”
More to the point, though, he said he was “not hearing” anything among owners that suggested an appetite for that.
Moreover, there is little reason to believe an established team will move any time soon.
“Having said that, organizations do tend to grow over time, we’re no different,” he said. “And there are some great communities out there that I know have no doubt would be wonderful NBA homes.”
Translation: Don’t hold your breath.
The APSE group won’t meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman until Friday afternoon, but it’s expected he’ll again simply say that the league continues to review expansion.
Besides, last year Quebec City and Las Vegas were the only cities to apply for the opportunity, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which also reports more than 14,000 people have made season-ticket deposits for a potential team.
So 31 years after the NBA Kings moved from Kansas City to Sacramento and 40 years after the slapstick Scouts of the NHL relocated to Denver, there’s nothing on the horizon that suggests either league will return.
And so be it: “It’s far better to do a few things well than to undertake many good works and leave them half-done,” St. Francis de Sales wrote.
Careful what you vaguely wish for.
For one thing, is there enough of a population base to support the added entertainment dollar for what would be a fourth major franchise?
And would the price of expansion, or the extortion that comes with trying to relocate a franchise (see: St. Louis Rams), ever be worth it?
What we’re left with is plenty abundant, including the long-term iconic place of the Chiefs, a thriving NCAA and amateur sports scene, the exceptional FCKC franchise (two-time defending NWSL champs) and vibrant minor-league hockey with the Mavericks.
And it all needs all the TLC it can get — including paying attention to details that might stem this momentum.
Silver inadvertently alluded to that for our area’s purposes on Thursday.
Asked about the implications of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, he reiterated the NBA’s stance that it will move its scheduled 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte if the legislation stands.
“We’ve been, I think, crystal clear a change in the law is necessary for us to play in the kind of environment that we think is appropriate for a celebratory NBA event,” Silver said, adding that he prefers not to set a time ultimatum in hopes of being “helpful” in the process but has alternatives ready.
A parallel matter looms in Missouri: SJR 39, the proposed so-called “religious freedom” constitutional amendment that would legally shield anyone from selling services to same-sex couples and has provoked concerns among the NCAA, the Big 12, the Southeastern Conference and others about future events in Kansas City.
No matter where you stand on this mean-spirited, regressive movement, you can’t separate that from the fact it jeopardizes something important to the state — and the city.That’s why when Kansas City Sports Commission president Kathy Nelson saw Silver’s comments about North Carolina on Twitter, she retweeted them saying, “No to #SJR39. Keep Missouri in the game.”
A game Kansas City is a winning model for on many fronts — as is.