Leiweke’s Kansas City Ribs

AEG President / CEO Tim Leiweke has always been one to speak his mind – even when others wish he wouldn’t.

When he hit Kansas City, Mo., for a recent visit, he responded to criticism from the developer of the city’s Power & Light District by telling him to literally mind his own business.

David Cordish, of Baltimore-based developer Cordish Co., wrote an e-mail last year blasting AEG, which built and operates the city’s Sprint Center, calling the venue a “disaster” because it hasn’t yet landed a major sports team tenant.

The e-mail was leaked and backchannel sniping has reportedly continued, despite the Sprint Center’s anticipated $1.8 million profit-sharing payment to the city for the last fiscal year. At the same time, the Power & Light District itself, of which Sprint Center is a part, has underperformed, according to the Kansas City Star.

“The Power & Light District was committed to before the Sprint Center was a reality,’ Leiweke told the paper. “For them to use us as a crutch is a crock. Don’t worry about us. Get your district fully open.” He reportedly added, “I like the Cordish guys. They’re good operators. It’s a frustrating process for them, and occasionally they aim their guns over here.”

Power & Light District developers envision the project as an entertainment and convention hub for downtown Kansas City, not unlike AEG’s L.A. Live complex in Los Angeles.

Nick Benjamin, executive director of Power & Light District, tried to diffuse the verbal jousting by praising the Sprint Center’s performance, telling the paper it has contributed to his development’s success to date.

“Of course, everyone would agree that Kansas City and the Sprint Center deserve professional sports teams and the addition of those events would be beneficial to the downtown and the district,” Benjamin told the Star.

But Leiweke offered a bit of advice for city promoters and critics alike: Instead of fretting over acquiring a sports franchise, what the district needs is a good convention hotel.

“Do I think Kansas City needs it? Yes. … With the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and Sprint Center, Kansas City will have an opportunity to compete for big events and conventions,” he told the paper.

“But as the city learned with the loss of the Future Farmers of America convention, its Achilles’ heel is lack of hotel rooms.”