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Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt steps into K.C. Arena Debate
Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt blasted opponents of the proposed new downtown arena after hearing their claims that support for the Chiefs and Royals would wane if an NBA or NHL team were to relocate in the proposed Sprint Center. That and this report from The Kansas City Star's Randy Covitz
Hunt isn't outspoken on many subjects, but he blistered the findings of University of San Francisco professor Dan Rascher, who said the two teams would be harmed by the presence of a major-league team in the arena.
"I don't agree at all," Hunt said Thursday. "The Chiefs want to encourage anything that encourages growth and development and new events in Kansas City, and I just don't see (his) rationale.
"I think it's interesting that someone would almost use a scare tactic that you should not vote for something because it's going to hurt the Chiefs. Maybe I should be flattered that people are worried, but I don't think there is anything to worry about in that context. I just look at it as being the type of thing very much like the Sports Complex when it was built in 1972."
Hunt, in fact, wondered aloud what might have happened had Jackson County citizens not voted in 1967 in favor of building Arrowhead Stadium and Royals Stadium.
"It's important for Kansas City to show progress," Hunt said. "I doubt the Chiefs would be in Kansas City today if more than 35 years ago people said, 'You had to keep playing in Municipal Stadium.' And we know what happened to the (Athletics) — they left.
"The Sports Complex helped get a new baseball team, the Royals, and helped make the Chiefs the success they are. It's led to other events that have come to Arrowhead like the Billy Graham Crusade that will be here in October, and the Big 12 championship that will be here for the third time in five years this year and again in 2006.
"The new arena may or may not attract other sports teams. I cannot speak to whether an NHL or an NBA team would come to Kansas City, but I'm not fearful from it from a Chiefs standpoint."
Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson echoed Hunt's thoughts, adding that he was planning to fly back to Kansas City from training camp so he could vote for the new arena Tuesday.
"We're all for it," Peterson said. "It's great for Kansas City, and it's great for downtown. I really don't understand the arguments against it. It makes too much sense. This is not something to fear, it's something to embrace."
Peterson said he has already spoken with Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, about possible cross-promotions between the Chiefs and a new arena. The Chiefs also would like to be involved with an Arena Football League team.
"The only thing (an arena) can do is help everyone," Peterson said. "Kansas City is a passionate sports town. We already know that. I don't think supporting a new arena will be a problem."
Even though Kansas City's metropolitan population is just 1.77 million, Hunt agreed that there are enough entertainment dollars to support the Chiefs, Royals, Wizards, Kansas Speedway events and Comets, as well as an NBA or NHL team, not to mention Big 12 schools, Big 12 tournaments and NCAA events at the new arena.
"In a perfect world, sure, we'd like to have no competition," Hunt said. "Should the Royals go away? Should the Wizards and the movie theatres all close? Well, theoretically, that would probably help the Chiefs. But the Chiefs are doing well. We have a very strong fan base … our season-ticket holders come from 45 states.
"I think of it from the positives that would come from it in the development of business, whether it's concert business … everyone who uses an arena, whether it's a circus or a hockey team, I look at it as a glass that is half full, not empty."
Other than what he has read in the newspaper, Hunt said he has not closely examined the non-binding agreement Kansas City has with AEG. But Hunt can vouch for AEG because he is partners with AEG founder Philip Anschutz in Major League Soccer. Of the 10 MLS franchises, Hunt operates three while Anschutz operates five.
"I can't speak to whether (the agreement) is good, bad or indifferent," Hunt said, "but certainly, getting a naming-rights sponsor in Sprint is tremendously positive, and getting Anschutz Entertainment Group … they know how to run arenas and have them all over the world."
Hunt's only regret is he is unable to vote on the project because he's a resident of Dallas.
"I don't know how many of the undecided voters are Chiefs ticket holders or fans," Hunt said, "but I would urge them not to be fearful of progress, and to be a supporter of progress." That and this report from The Kansas City Star's Randy Covitz
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