We like baseball. We also like the Kansas City T-Bones, who play a nostalgic brand of independent baseball at a stadium near Village West, the huge retail and entertainment complex in western Wyandotte County.
The latest agreement was reached in late June, when the Unified Government signed off on a complicated deal to restructure the team’s contract with the government. The new contract is expected to exempt the T-Bones stadium — which is already publicly owned — from property taxes.
That tax break, nearly $250,000, will allow the Unified Government to restructure its relationship with the T-Bones, saving the team money.
It’s a familiar story. The Unified Government agreed to buy the privately owned stadium in 2014, using sales tax revenue from nearby businesses to pay the $5.5 million cost.
Without the sale, the team said pro baseball in Wyandotte County was doomed. But that didn’t solve the T-Bones’ problems. Attendance continued to drop, in part because the Kansas City Royals started playing better baseball.
In 2016, the team fell behind on its obligations. That led to this year’s renegotiation.
In a statement, T-Bones president Adam Ehlert appeared to suggest his club is the aggrieved party in the transaction, not the taxpayers.
“We’ve never had a realistic structure of public/private shared costs,” he said, “and therefore have had to heavily subsidize baseball in Wyandotte County.”
What? It isn’t as if someone required the T-Bones to exist. And the statement is an indirect shot at the Royals, who play in a public ballpark, rebuilt with taxpayer funds.
Any comparison between the deals for the Royals and the T-Bones is silly. The Royals play Major League Baseball, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists to the area. Kauffman Stadium generates millions of dollars in direct and indirect public revenue each year.
There are legitimate reasons to criticize taxpayer support for the Royals and Kansas City Chiefs. But those reasons have nothing to do with the T-Bones, whose competition consists of movie theaters and other entertainment options that aren’t publicly subsidized.
Unified Government officials say they regret the bailout but don’t want to see an empty baseball stadium at Village West. We don’t want that, either. We recommend Kansas Citians catch a game.
But the public subsidies have to stop. The team now has an obligation to put an appealing product on the field, giving fans a reason to plunk their money down at the ticket window.