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Going Downtown: KC Royals, vibrant area - a good double-play combo

Rob Roberts, Reporter,
Kansas City Business Journal
November 7, 2014
 
The case for moving the Kansas City Royals stadium to Downtown "is an obvious no-brainer," said Jon Copaken.
 
"If you listed the pros and cons, I think you would find 100 pros and be searching hard to find any cons," said Copaken, who led a failed 2004-05 effort to develop a downtown baseball stadium.
 
One of the oft-cited reasons for supporting the current location is the ease of parking — and tailgating — that the Truman Sports Complex's acres of asphalt afford.
 
"I understand tailgating," Copaken said, "but I've never quite understood why people would rather walk three, four, five times as far in a surface situation as opposed to parking in a covered location close to where they're going."
 
Downtown offers 50,000 structured parking spaces that are "very underutilized at night" and could be used for evening baseball crowds, he said. And bringing 81 regular-season crowds to Downtown, plus more in the postseason, would have an enormous effect on a revitalization effort that already has spawned $9 billion in capital investment, Copaken said.
 
Cassidy Turley broker Gib Kerr recalls meeting with Charles Drury, president of Drury Hotels Co., when downtown Kansas City baseball was in play 10 years ago.
 
"He was looking at our downtown because there was discussion of a potential stadium here," Kerr said. "He said downtown baseball was the No. 1 driver for hotel rooms in St. Louis and other places where they have downtown hotels."
 
Besides hotels, Copaken said, downtown baseball stadiums attract high-end residential and retail development. They also boost bar and restaurant traffic, office occupancy and convention business.
 
"I don't know what the current number is, but the last I heard was that the average convention attendee spends $1,400 on restaurants, entertainment and shopping," said Todd Achelpohl, a local architect who worked on Bartle Hall's expansion.
 
"People scoff at multiplier effects," Copaken said, "but these are real tangible things that are never going to happen at the stadium's current location. Never."
 
Among the less tangible results of downtown baseball would be excitement and energy similar to what was generated during the Royals recent run to the World Series. During the playoffs, fans flocked to the Kansas City Power & Light District in huge numbers to watch games, and many of the players showed up there to celebrate victories.
 
"Everything about baseball is downtown except for the stadium," Copaken said.
 
The same wasn't true when Copaken led the charge for downtown baseball a decade ago. The Power & Light District had not yet come out of the ground, and Royals owner David Glass was citing surveys telling him fans wanted the stadium to remain at Interstate 70 and Blue Ridge Cutoff.
 
"But now, $9 billion of downtown investment later, the whole community is focused differently on where people come to play and be entertained," Copaken said.
 
Achelpohl said real estate decisions today are being driven by the maturing of the millennial generation.
 
"They are looking for the energy that comes with living in a city, utilizing public transport, walking places and being close to things that they like to do," he said.
 
And to the extent that they're engaged in America's favorite pastime, Achelpohl said, millennials like downtown baseball.
 
The big question is where the Royals' ownership stands on the question.
 
Tim Schaffer of RED Brokerage LLC said it long had been rumored that Cliff Illig, one of the founders of Cerner Corp. and an owner of Sporting Kansas City, wants to buy the Royals from the Glass family. Illig occupied a front-row seat behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium throughout this year's playoff and World Series games.
 
"I think a move (to Downtown) is predicated on new ownership," Schaffer said.
 
Copaken agreed that downtown baseball will remain dead in the water unless the team and ownership get on board.
 
"But downtown baseball was an option that enhanced the bottom lines of the team and the community 10 years ago, and it would enhance them even more so now," he said. "That's so obvious that I think both new or existing (Royals) owners could see that."

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