Remember what so many people said when Kansas City leaders set out to build the Sprint Center?
We don’t need it. Kemper Arena still has years of life. We’re wasting our money.
“This is just not a good deal,” former Councilman Paul Danaher said at the time.
But build it we did. And the city never looked back.
Remember the scrap over the Bloch Building, the big addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art that opened in 2007? That didn’t go over well either.
Looks like it belongs in an industrial park, William Eickhorst wrote in a letter to The Star.
“Grotesque, a metal box,” another said.
Banking tycoon R. Crosby Kemper Jr. likened it to a Butler building. But that’s before he changed his mind, as so many others did.
Kansas City never looked back.
Mayor Sly James likes to talk about the fight back in the early 1970s over building Kansas City International Airport way up north taking the place of what’s now known as Wheeler Downtown Airport. You can imagine the protests.
The downtown airport was just so convenient.
No doubt about it: Kansas Citians have a well-documented history of resistance to change. That’s exactly what James and some members of the City Council are bumping up against now in this increasingly tough fight for a new single terminal at KCI.
We love our horseshoes. No one else has anything like ’em. There’s not an airport anywhere easier to navigate.
That said, it’s time to move on. We’ve gotten nearly a half-century out of those terminals and, well, it’s a new day. This town is on a roll, and we need a new front porch.
Remember the sculptures installed in 1994 atop those 280-foot Bartle Hall pylons? Remember the criticism? Maybe you don’t because nowadays, the darn things are calendar art.
“I’d like to take ’em down and sell ’em for scrap,” one resident opined at the time.
“I think that the guy that designed those ought to have been left on top of them,” growled another.
Calls to this newspaper ran 3 to 1 against R.M. Fischer’s $1.1 million “Sky Stations Pylon Caps.” Some thought shuttlecocks or the logos of the Chiefs and Royals should be up there.
Amazing how things change, isn’t it?
Speaking of shuttlecocks, let’s go there.
Those whimsical birdies on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, courtesy of artists Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, were embraced with all the warmth the French once showed the Nazis.
“I am horrified,” one mom said on opening weekend 1994.
“So where’s the giant racquet to go with this badminton set?” one man asked.
“Trash,” said another.
Today? Those shuttlecocks have become part of who we are. They’re featured on postcards and posters and magazine covers.
In fact, my theory of this town is that its latest push toward world-class status took flight when we got those birdies. Think about it: Brush Creek was renovated about that time. Union Station reopened in 1999. A few years later, the zoo finally became a real zoo. The city elected its first woman mayor, Kay Barnes, in 1999 and off we went transforming our downtown and rebuilding our stadiums.
Maybe those birdies in front of that staid old museum opened our minds to new possibilities.
Yes, things that are new can be tough to swallow. But, hey, they’ve transformed this town.