Will Kansas City Get ‘Screwed’?

As the initial design was revealed for Kansas City, Mo.’s new Sprint Center, it was overshadowed by remarks that AEG‘s Tim Leiweke made at a city council meeting.

Anschutz Entertainment Group is supplying $50 million to the $250 million project, which is to replace Kemper Arena as the city’s marquee facility. While the development of Sprint gets under way, so do plans for two other arenas, each about 30 minutes away from the site of the 20,000-seat facility.

The KC suburbs of Olathe and Overland Park each plan to build an arena in the 8,000 to 10,000 capacity range. While the Sprint Center is luring an NBA or NHL franchise, Overland Park’s $150 million facility intends to have minor league basketball and hockey teams. The venue just received an influx of state bond money, and Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert doesn’t think it will compete with Sprint Center.

With Overland Park’s venue still on the drawing board and Olathe’s as well, Leiweke told the City Council that taxpayers will get hurt.

“They are being sold a bill of goods,” he said, according to The Kansas City Star. “Those taxpayers are going to get screwed in this deal.”

Leiweke went on to say the arenas would not be able to split events with Sprint.

“We will compete aggressively to take all the important events, family shows, concerts and sporting events that are major league,” he said. “They will be in downtown Kansas City.”

“There’s going to be one major league arena in the heart of this country, and it’s going to be Sprint Center,” he added. “If the other sports ultimately want to be able to compete in this marketplace and generate the kind of revenue they need to generate to survive, I think they’ll have a hard time trying to convince an advertiser to get behind a minor league arena when they could’ve played in a major league arena.”

Eilert said Leiweke’s remarks were over the top and that he had gone “off the deep end.” The mayor added that there was a boat show coming to Overland Park as an example of how the two venues would not compete.

“I don’t think any of us have ever doubted nor have we questioned the arena downtown. I think it’s a great idea,” Eilert told the Star. “I don’t see a small suburban arena 20 or 30 minutes away competing with Mr. Leiweke’s arena.”

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Council voted unanimously on a final development agreement with AEG to build the Sprint Center. The planned opening is reportedly scheduled for spring 2007.