A baseball stadium in downtown Kansas City? It’s time to start the conversation

Here’s the latest on the prospects for a downtown baseball stadium: Royals owner David Glass hasn’t ruled it out.

City Manager Troy Schulte said his conversations with Glass associates have left the door open to that possibility.

“He (Glass) is saying, `Give us some options,’” Schulte said. “He has not said no.”

That’s significant. At a minimum, it suggests Kansas City should launch a metrowide conversation about a decision with far-reaching consequences.

The leases for the twin stadiums expire in 2031. That’s a ways off. But make no mistake: The gravity of this decision and the steps to be taken if a downtown stadium is to happen are considerable. Decisions must be made during the next few years.

One early consideration is banking the 12 to 14 acres needed for a stadium. Already, Schulte noted, one prime site — a location between 12th and 13th streets just east of Grand Boulevard — is off the table, snapped up by developers for other purposes. It was considered an appealing option because of its proximity to the streetcar and the Power & Light District.

Other possibilities remain east of City Hall and near the 18th & Vine Jazz District. “You’ve got to reserve it, or you’re losing development sites,” Schulte said.

Downtown baseball could be an incredible opportunity. Just picture it: the burgeoning city skyline atop the outfield fence. All manner of new businesses popping up to cater to crowds filling downtown streets. That spin-off effect is utterly missing in the desert island that is the taxpayer-subsidized Truman Sports Complex. Taxpayers deserve more bang for their considerable bucks.

Going downtown is Major League Baseball’s new look, and the promise of it has had hearts pounding in these parts for years. When the leases expire in 2031, the twin stadiums will be 60 years old. That’s awfully long in the tooth, and it makes the prospect of another extensive renovation questionable.

Make no mistake, though: The metro area needs to venture forth with a clear-eyed understanding. Let’s lay down some markers now:

The Kansas side of the state line needs to be involved not only in planning, but also in the financing. With some sports stadiums now surpassing the $1 billion mark, the days of Jackson County taxpayers footing the bill for such major amenities has passed.

This almost certainly can’t be viewed as a Royals-only project. The history of our two professional sports teams suggests the Chiefs will demand equal treatment. That could mean two new stadiums with a combined cost topping the new terminal at KCI. Given that, leaders should be open to the possibility that Kansas and Village West could wind up as home to the Chiefs.

From day one, this process needs to be transparent and completely aboveboard. That’s the only way to proceed, and it’s the only way a sustainable partnership between the states can proceed. We don’t want another no-bid KCI fiasco.

Glass, of course, will make the final call. He’ll have to be convinced that a loss in parking revenue can be made up through the higher attendance that downtown baseball promises.

Schulte is spot-on when he talks about the need to look ahead.

“I just don’t want to be surprised and say, `Well, we should’ve thought about this back in 2018 or 2020,’” he said. Amen to that.