Don't Screw This up Kansas City
In case you didn't notice, the Pittsburgh Penguins took a hipcheck through the glass this week, when their prospective owners failed to get a casino license in Pittsburgh. What the hell does that have to do with the Huskers? Nothing..but follow me here.
The granting of that license would have meant that Mario Lemieux, a principle owner of the Pittsburgh NHL franchise could sell the team to the Isle of Capri casino people..who were promising a 290 million dollar arena if they got the license. Now, I'm not sure how smart some of you are...but those of you with a 6th grade education or above can comprehend that 290 million dollar arenas do not fall out of the sky for blue-collar cities...or any city for that matter. This one did. Well, it did until the city rejected the license.
Now, the team that has called Pittsburgh home for decades, now has to look for another place to play. With the leagues leading scorer...a 19 year old phenom named Sydney Crosby, the Pens are now in a situation where they absolutely have to find somewhere to go in order to survive. (Did I mention their lease at Mellon Arena was about to run out?) Enter Kansas City, Missouri. A sleepy little villa on the banks of the mighty Mo, who just so happen, as luck would have it, to have a brand new arena set to open next fall and (gasp)...nobody to play in it. Hmmmm...that seems odd?
Now, those of you from the KC area, or even the Midwest in general probably know that the city of Kansas City hasn't done a damn thing right since they decided to build two of the most beautiful ballparks in the country in the middle of nowhere in 1971. Roads crumble, Raytown resembles south central in terms of crime, and downtown KC looks like something out of an old western movie, with tumbleweed rumbling through the streets after 6pm. They tried to build a baseball stadium downtown...they didn't. They tried to develop the city north near the airport. They didn't. They've tried to add attractions and activities to the most populated area between the Mississippi river and the Rockies. They lost them all to Kansas.
What's my point? My point is, storied NHL franchises with the leagues best player (who is NINETEEN YEARS OLD) do not fall out of the sky on an everyday basis. The city had the NHL in the mid 70's and lost them to the swamps of New Jersey of all places, only to watch the shitty Kings pack up and leave for that Mecca of Sacramento a decade or so later. It's only a matter of time before rodeos, arena football, concerts and car shows fill up that arena...so again, the opportunity for a tenant in this situation is rare.
So why would the NHL work in a small market city like Kansas City, instead of Houston, Las Vegas, Winnipeg or Southern Ontario? Because Kansas City fans, (especially those on the Kansas side), have proven with the Chiefs, that fans in that city love an event. Much like Creighton fans flock to the Qwest Center to wine and dine on Filet Mignot and drink cabernet, as the Bluejays squeak out another huge win against Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Kansas City fans want to be where the action is. Despite the Royals and Buddy Bell drawing piddly crowds, Arrowhead (where tailgating is king), continues to sell out every single game since 1990. NASCAR and Indy League races at the Kansas Speedway are sold out as well.
Even the shitty Kings, with Otis Birdsong, LaSalle Thompson and Larry Drew had decent attendance numbers, while playing in one of the shittiest arenas in the history of professional sports. (Kemper Arena is an absolute toilet.)
So with Santa and his elves preparing to hand out Christmas gifts to good little boys and girls on Sunday night, I hope they remember the long-suffering fans of Kansas City. It's a shame a model NHL franchise has to uproot and leave their hometown, but nobody asked me how I felt when the Kings up and left some 22 years ago. (I'm still pissed at them about that, and I don't even like the NBA anymore.) I
If you live in the KC area...even if you can't stand hockey..you owe it to yourself and your community to get behind this thing with everything you have. There's a reason some cities are called "major league" and other's are called, "Tulsa" or "Wichita" or "Omaha." Do the right thing for once, and show the world that you can be visionaries once again. And if anything...show the Omaha and Oklahoma City's of the world that you want to take your rightful place in the region as a sports destination.
Don't screw this up KC. A lot of people in the area, even outside your own hometown, are counting on you.