Dave Helling

The Chiefs should rename Arrowhead Stadium for founder Lamar Hunt

The Kansas City Chiefs should rename Arrowhead Stadium for Lamar Hunt.

Too soon? The city has just gone through an unfortunate argument over renaming a street for Martin Luther King Jr. Another naming controversy might seem inelegant.

But there are good reasons to rename the NFL stadium for one of the most important figures in city history, and there are lots of reasons to do it now.

Hunt clearly deserves to be remembered in Kansas City. His decision to bring his AFL franchise here, just a decade after the baseball Athletics arrived from Philadelphia, cemented the city’s status as a major league community.

And unlike the owner of the A’s — or football owners to the east in St. Louis — Hunt never threatened to leave Kansas City, or used his team as a negotiating tool. Hunt was among those principally responsible for voter approval of the Truman Sports Complex, and for the 2006 stadium improvements approved at the polls.

The baseball stadium across the parking lot is named for Ewing Kauffman, the Royals’ first owner. Hunt’s impact was at least equal to Kauffman’s.

And — let me say this gently — calling the stadium “Arrowhead” upsets some people. Renaming the stadium for Hunt erases that issue while provoking the fewest number of fans.

The Chiefs would probably resist such a move. Lamar Hunt wanted to call the stadium Arrowhead, after all. The team owns lucrative naming rights for the facility, rights they would surrender, for practical purposes, if Hunt’s name were emblazoned on the side.

The Royals were thrown under the bus 20 years ago for even thinking about replacing Kauffman’s name with a paying sponsor. The Chiefs don’t want that grief. Clark Hunt and the Hunt family might also hesitate.

Yet the arguments for a renaming are compelling. The Chiefs aren’t struggling financially, and a statue outside the facility seems insufficient.

In the past, team officials have called the Arrowhead name sacrosanct. I’d bet it’s less important than Lamar Hunt’s name, though. (And let’s not have any of this “Hunt Field at Arrowhead Stadium” nonsense. It has to be Lamar Hunt Stadium.)

It took several years for the Royals to acquiesce in the renaming of their stadium, so any movement to replace Arrowhead with Hunt should begin soon. That’s particularly true because Kansas City needs to name something for David Glass, who probably saved baseball here — and won a World Series to boot.

This naming thing is sticky. Former Kansas City Mayor Sly James needs to get his name on something, probably the airport terminal. We still haven’t named anything for Mark Funkhouser. The agenda is backing up.

But this one seems easy. We’ve got a Kit Bond Bridge, a Colonel Thomas Swope Park, a Robert Dole Courthouse, a Francois Chouteau Trafficway. It’s time for Lamar Hunt Stadium, at the Harry Truman Sports Complex.

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Dave Helling has covered politics in Kansas and Missouri for four decades. He has worked in television news, and is a regular contributor to local broadcast programs. Helling writes editorials for the Star, and a weekly column. He was awarded the 2018 ASNE Burl Osborne award for editorial leadership.