On Tuesday, the American Royal Association announced that it would be moving from its longtime home in Kansas City, Missouri's West Bottoms, to Kansas City, Kansas. The decision follows several years of debate about the future of Kemper Arena and comes as little surprise to folks who have been following the issue. As I and others suggested might happen, the Royal's decision to jump to Wyandotte County came with a massive, $80-million financial assist from the state of Kansas. That sum will finance about half of what has grown into a roughly $160-million project.
There will be lots of analysis on the impact of the Royal project on Kansas from folks who follow their issues more closely. I'll punt those analyses to them, except to say that we continue to oppose the development culture, no matter the state, that treats taxpayers as cows to be milked for every big government idea that comes down the pike. Indeed, Kansas City's border war has cost both sides hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years—money that won't be going to necessary public services in the region.
Meanwhile in Missouri, the rush appears to be on to dream up new ways to compensate for the Royal's departure from the West Bottoms, no doubt to be driven by more government largesse. Kemper Arena seems set to receive massive tax subsidies as it's turned into a youth recreation complex. What, if anything else, gets built around that remains anyone's guess, though chances are good that those projects will be subsidized by taxpayers, too. We continue to oppose such a development plan. Of the things the City could and should do in the West Bottoms, not letting the City's own sewage treatment plant continue to stink up the area and its surrounding neighborhoods would be a good start. We'll see what actually happens.
To many of us, the Royal represented one of the signature cultural events that made Kansas City unique. In a time where municipal me-tooism is all the rage, the Royal stood out as a sign that Kansas City, though changing, is still connected to her past. Its departure is a loss for Kansas City, Mo., and serves as a sad commentary on a tax-incentivized development culture run amuck in this region.