Flyover Country: They Won’t Call the Next One That

Flyover Country: They Won’t Call the Next One That

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Image credit: © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals spent their winter doing some elaborate set-dressing—set-building, even. On Tuesday afternoon, they put on the actual show. In a widely publicized press conference, they unveiled details of their proposal to build a new ballpark in downtown Kansas City, as part of a larger entertainment district and urban revival. The usual bells and whistles were attached: renderings, promises about multiple-location redevelopment and investment, and a lot of language designed to make voters believe that the future success of the Royals depends on the construction of this project.

By now, few readers here at BP need to be told or reminded that this kind of thing is just large-scale propaganda. It’s the least-trumpeted and least-discussed element of these rollouts, but there’s always a plea for public funding or some kind of major subsidy involved, and this case is no exception. Renderings are pretty distractions, designed to gin up support among the easily manipulated—the utopian dreamers who so long for the bright, sun-drenched, green and untrammeled future the pictures promise that they open their minds, even if only fractionally, to the lobbying efforts that will follow over the next several weeks. They never feature parking structures, or even cars, really, and some fans miss that altogether and some see it and reply to the release on Twitter with some form of “gotcha!”, but the truth is that no one planning this facility has forgotten that there will be a massive need for parking lots or structures. They’re just not part of the Glorious Rendered Future.

No, you already know that publicly-funded ballparks like this one are a bad deal for taxpayers and municipalities. You also know that this would further a trend that has gathered steam throughout baseball, although in an incrementally less galling way. Already, the Atlanta and Texas clubs have built new parks to obviate and obliviate the ones they’d just moved into in the mid-1990s, and the White Sox are girding themselves for the push to get a replacement built in the stead of Guaranteed Rate Field, which went up a few years earlier. Kauffman Stadium, which the Royals have called home since 1974, was drastically renovated in 2009, modernizing the park enough to permit the team to host an All-Star Game and to ensure the longevity of the Royals (as well as the football team with whom they share the Truman Sports Complex) in the city. Those renovations cost $250 million and were taxpayer-funded.

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