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KC to get All-Star Game in 2012
ST. LOUIS | First thing you see is a giant baseball, 12 feet in diameter, signed by Derek Jeter and Ted Williams and Hank Aaron. It’s in Guinness World Records, and sort of an unofficial welcoming here at baseball’s All-Star FanFest.
It’s also a heck of a metaphor for what’s coming to Kansas City.
Before the end of the season — most likely next month — baseball commissioner Bud Selig will confirm that Kansas City will play host to the All-Star Game in 2012, according to sources.
It will be our first national sporting event since the Final Four in 1988, and it very well could be our last for decades.
Everything that’s happening this week in St. Louis will happen three years from now in Kansas City. The planning, at least in the abstract, has already begun. Cities like ours don’t get many chances at making a national impression.
It is a whirlwind of craziness, and with President Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch, the joke around St. Louis is that you’ll be in line at a security checkpoint with rapper Nelly behind you and a Clydesdale in front of you.
This is the show that’s coming to Kansas City.
“There’s so many things we could do,” said Kevin Uhlich, the Royals executive in charge of the plans. “We have so much real estate out here. We could develop a village in the parking lot. You know, sort of like for the Super Bowl.”
The advice out of St. Louis is to have fun with it. That’s what they’re trying to do. The best baseball players in the world are coming to town. A concert by Sheryl Crow and Elvis Costello raised a reported $1 million for cancer research.
This modest market in Missouri will have the attention of a supposed 100 million people worldwide on television. This should mean excitement, and sometimes it does.
Too often it means paranoia.
“I’m chuckling at it sometimes,” said Cardinals president Bill Dewitt. “It’s like, ‘Did you see that corner a block from the stadium that’s got a broken curb? We need that fixed. This is the All-Star Game!’ It’s definitely a heightened sense of ‘We’ve gotta put on a show.’ ”
Everything is being magnified here, from the greatness of the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols and the city’s Italian restaurants to St. Louis fans’ self-promotion as the best in baseball.
It’ll be that way in Kansas City, too — 2,500 media representatives and tens of thousands of people traveling in to eat our barbecue and talk about Zack Greinke.
The Chamber of Commerce will love this, of course, but it also means that Kansas Citians may need to thicken their skin.
Whenever a big-time event like this is held outside places like Miami or San Diego or Phoenix, it’s become an almost expected side-sport for people to blast the economy in Detroit (Super Bowl XL), the traffic in Houston (2006 NBA All-Star Game) or, well, just about everything in Jacksonville (Super Bowl XXXIX).
“I’ll tell you how Jacksonville looked at it, and I’m sure Kansas City will do the same thing,” said Gene Frenette, a longtime sports columnist for the Florida Times-Union. “If you have to take a few potshots along the way to host a major sporting event like that, then whatever barbs get thrown your way, all the businesses that get people to stay in their hotel rooms or eat at their restaurants will be more than quick to take that in exchange.”
Ron Watermon, the Cardinals executive and point man for this week’s plans, says when the event is in St. Louis now and Kansas City later, it will turn the Show-Me State into the Watch-Me State.
It’s been said that if pessimism were a product, it would be Missouri’s No. 1 export.
And here might be a good place to mention the potential challenges.
Kansas City’s FanFest will almost certainly be at the Convention Center. The headquarters hotel will probably be somewhere on the Plaza. There will need to be a free and frequent shuttle system.
Throw in the eternally threatening local weather — Kansas City’s forecast for today, for instance, is temperatures in the upper 90s with possible thunderstorms — and there will be a great deal of planning and finger crossing.
“Every city has logistical issues,” said Bob DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball. “I actually think it’s an advantage to have the All-Star Game in smaller cities. New York (in 2008) was a wonderful place, but New York continues to be New York. You walk around St. Louis this weekend and the All-Star Game is everywhere. It’ll be like that in Kansas City, too.”
DuPuy was talking at the opening of a youth baseball field in St. Louis’ urban core, which was paid for with the expected revenue from Monday’s Home Run Derby. It’s been reported that the “leave behind” from this week’s festivities will be about $2 million in charitable work.
That number can be backed up with Saturday night’s concert and other events, but be skeptical when you start to hear about the All-Star Game’s supposed $70 million boost to local economies. Independent studies have shown that while the game may produce tens of millions of dollars in revenue, there is actually very little or no impact on local economies.
First, not all the money spent in Kansas City will stay here. Some of it goes to shareholders in New York.
Second, not all of the revenue is new spending money. Some of it is being spent only on All-Star events instead of at other businesses.
And third, many other economic activities get crowded out by All-Star visitors.
“Cities do a pretty good job of adding and multiplying the numbers, but they don’t do a good job of subtracting,” said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at College of the Holy Cross who has done multiple studies on this. “It’s absolutely possible that these things can make you happy, but you shouldn’t expect them to make you rich.”
Kansas City voters in effect turned down a Super Bowl and potential Final Fours when they rejected giving money to put a rolling roof over Arrowhead Stadium. But they did receive assurances from Selig two years ago that an All-Star Game would accompany the approved renovations to Kauffman Stadium.
That means that unless and until the Royals make the World Series — insert joke here — the 2012 All-Star Game could be Kansas City’s last truly national sporting event for a generation.
The last All-Star Game in Kansas City was 1973, the first year of then-Royals Stadium. It was something of a coming-out party for Kansas City.
In 1973, there were 450 reporters and 50 million people watching worldwide in 11 countries. It was a reported $500,000 boost to KC.
Now, there are 2,500 media members and 100 million people watching in more than 230 countries. There’s the reported $70 million boost — though, as Matheson says, that number can be deceiving.
Behind the scenes, that giant baseball is already tumbling toward our city.
“We can’t wait,” Uhlich said. “We’re not on that national level all that often. We want to show people what we have to offer.”