View Full Version : Good new article from Eileen Weir (seriously), but not about football

03-07-2006, 03:56 PM
Mar 07, 2006, 4:18:50 AM by Eileen Weir

There is no arguing that the atmosphere surrounding the Truman Sports Complex is unbefitting of the world-class facilities that occupy the intersection of I-435 and I-70 on Kansas City’s eastern edge. A few modest lodging options, a gas station, and a handful of chain restaurants are hardly the sort of amenities that would cause local sports enthusiasts to grab a bite off-site before kickoff or linger after the final inning to take in the after-glow of a major league sporting event.

Out of town visitors traveling to the area for a game may book a room at one of the nearby hotels for the sake of convenience and economy, but serious sightseers are far more likely to hitch a ride to the game and choose downtown or Country Club Plaza accommodations, enjoying the unique beauty and style of Kansas City as one of the Midwest’s premiere destinations.

Yes, things look bleak along Blue Ridge Cutoff, Stadium Drive and Raytown Road. I know. I live there.

The seemingly desperate state of affairs that has plagued the sports complex district throughout its thirty-plus year history is perhaps the most compelling argument for relocation of one or both of our major league facilities. The enticement of downtown for baseball, Johnson County for soccer, and Village West in Wyandotte County for football is the plethora of attractions and conveniences already established in alternative locales. The existing placement certainly lacks panache, and after three decades of anchoring the intersection no significant commercial growth has sprung up in the shadow of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums.

Eastern Jackson County in general, and Independence and Sugar Creek in particular, are long-suffering under the perceived pall of economic depression. Proud of their working class roots, many EJC communities retain identity with the businesses and industries including Standard Oil and Allis Chalmers that serve as the foundation of their culture. Established as among the first suburbs of Kansas City, the towns are still replete with working class people, living in post-war bungalows and ranch homes that line the tree-lined streets and boulevards.

But a quiet revolution is afoot in Eastern Jackson County, just a stones throw from the Truman Sports Complex. Suddenly EJC is a hot spot.

Consider this: According to statistics provided by the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Jackson County, the largest county in the Kansas City metropolitan area, has a labor force of 367,000 workers, with a whopping 47% of those represented by Eastern Jackson County. The EJC area which is defined as the cities of Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Grandview, Independence, Lee’s Summit, and Sugar Creek, oft thought of as blue collar actually boasts 87.5% of residents who have a high school degree or better compared to 86.7% in Kansas City proper and 80.4% nationally. Median household incomes in Eastern Jackson County all exceed Kansas City’s median of $40,643 with Independence coming in low at $41,054 and topped by Lee’s Summit at $63,645, well above the national average of $45,128.

Let’s talk business.

The most recent document produced by the Eastern Jackson County Development Alliance reveals the tremendous commercial and retail development springing up along the I-70 corridor east of downtown KC. In Independence the Blue Ridge Bank Financial Center dominates prime real estate on the Little Blue Parkway with a $20 million, 6-story Class A office building. Complementing the construction is the Eastland Business Park, a 211-acre mixed use business park and Hartman Heritage, a 54-acre business park on the north side of Interstate 70. In 2002 Independence ranked fourth in the state of Missouri in taxable sales, totaling $1.6 billion, a 2.9% increase from the previous year.

The former Blue Ridge Mall located in Kansas City at I-70 between US Highway 40 and Sterling Avenue is now completely razed to make room for a state of the art WalMart concept store as well as additional development.

Lee’s Summit is experiencing equally impressive acquisition and redevelopment of industry with local and national business leaders including American Century, Caremark, Cerner Corp., LabOne and Toys R Us constructing new facilities in the EJC town, creating more than 2,300 jobs this century. Lee’s Summit has turned its success towards its own inner core by undertaking a multi-million dollar renovation to its charming downtown. Blue Springs and Grandview are similarly taking a piece of the action by acquiring new industry growth within their city limits.

Called by the Eastern Jackson County Development Alliance “a regional power center,” the I-70/470 interchange has seen development of more than three million square feet of retail development achieved in this decade with more growth on the drawing board. The Bass Pro project currently underway at the intersection promises a 160,000 square foot facility housing the world-known outdoor sporting goods outlet with an additional 250,000 to 400,000 square feet of complementary retail and hotel accommodations on the horizon.

A 2000 traffic study conducted by the Missouri Department of Transportation showed that more than 100,000 vehicles cross the junction of I-70 and 470 daily, making it no wonder that companies are choosing Eastern Jackson County for new development investments. And retail isn’t the only game in town. HCA, the country’s leading provider of healthcare services is currently constructing a 270 bed hospital in Independence, making it the company’s largest inpatient health care center in the state.

Homeowners are likewise migrating to the mature neighborhoods and cutting-edge development of Jackson County’s eastern communities. The Home Builders’ Association of Greater Kansas City confirmed the exponential growth east of town revealing that while residential building permits declined 4% metro-wide between 2001 and 2002, the number of permits granted increased 7.5% in EJC. In fact, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Grain Valley and Blue Springs all rank in the top ten of single family residential building permits issued for the entire Kansas City region during that span.

If the news is so cheery in EJC why does the area around the stadium still look so seedy? Since the quality of retail, commercial and residential development around the sports complex directly impacts the value and desirability of my home, it is a question I have asked of local and regional politicians, leaders of city government and civic causes, and fellow residents of the towns that border the Truman Sports Complex.

From my highly unscientific research I hypothesize that development has been slow in the ditch around the stadiums in part because the area is controlled by a variety of municipalities. Independence, Kansas City and Raytown all lay claim to a portion of the land surrounding the homes of our hometown teams. Dealing with permits, codes, and other approvals from one entity is nightmare enough for developers, both private and public, but achieving cooperation and consensus from multiple parties with varying degrees of resources and interest is next to impossible.

Eastern Jackson County –and this includes Kansas City – suffers from a severe case of apathy when it comes to addressing the needs of the impacted area. It is fairly landlocked which creates growth limitations, the political situation can be complicated, and there is no public outcry to spruce up the eyesore. It’s always looked that way, the thinking goes. Even with both teams playing full schedules, the area is only accessed ninety days a year. Why invest in revitalizing an area that is only seen 25% of the time?

It’s okay with me for proponents of downtown baseball and the Wyandotte County Chiefs to point out the deficiencies that are obvious at the Chiefs and Royals current location. We need to make an investment of time and resources to have a pleasing experience at the ballpark. Moreover, the environs do nothing to impress out of town visitors who pilgrimage to Kansas City to enjoy a display of quality that is not reflected in the area encompassing the sports facilities.

Yes, it is okay with me to complain about the blighted area that is in essence my own neighborhood. The area has gone neglected for far too long, its appearance has somehow become accepted, and locals take the thirty year status quo as proof positive that the area cannot be developed. That’s not okay with me.

Ten years ago who would have dreamed that Wyandotte County would become the largest tourist draw in the metropolitan area? Who knew that the northland would evolve into one of the most alluring sections of the region for luxury housing, first class recreation and entertainment, and a brand new shopping district? Fifteen years ago the Independence Center at I-70 and 291 was the end of the earth. Downtown long awaited its day in the sun.

It is unacceptable to claim that the I-70/I-435 crossroad cannot be developed when, indeed, no one has tried. It just takes a big idea, a big plan, and a big commitment to positive change. Eastern Jackson County has proven it can attract and sustain substantial developmental growth all at once. Someone just needs to try.


The Bad Guy
03-07-2006, 03:58 PM
Reading columns like this, and the fact that a FOOTBALL team's official site allows them to be posted on their page, makes me really wish I grew up a fan of a different team.

03-07-2006, 04:01 PM
I wonder if Eileen knows that the St. Louis baseball Cardinals' owners are using their own money to build "Ballpark Village" around the new Busch Stadium in the area where the old stadium used to sit.

If Weir is calling for someone to start developing the area around the Truman Complex, why not start with Hunt and Glass?

03-07-2006, 05:29 PM
I wonder if Eileen knows that the St. Louis baseball Cardinals' owners are using their own money to build "Ballpark Village" around the new Busch Stadium in the area where the old stadium used to sit.

If Weir is calling for someone to start developing the area around the Truman Complex, why not start with Hunt and Glass?

Agreed. That would do alot for the 435/70 area.

Glass is a Walmart dude (or married to an heiress)...????

Cards mgmt is commited after getting the new stadium.

Lets see how long it takes to build out.

03-07-2006, 07:57 PM
hmmm. I used to live in Independence 25 yrs ago. I wonder if I can still rent it for $150/mo?

03-07-2006, 10:39 PM
Independence is the place to be.