The likelihood of a new professional sports team in Kansas City is increasing each day. The hot debate not only in Kansas City, but throughout the state, is whether an NBA or NHL franchise would be more successful.
On Aug. 3, Kansas City voters approved fee increases to fund the construction of a new arena, the Sprint Center.
While Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes is hoping the arena will help revitalize the city’s downtown area, many Columbians simply want more sports.
Bob Burchard, the Columbia College men’s basketball coach, said he has been craving NBA basketball in Missouri since the Kansas City Kings moved to Sacramento in 1985.
“(Missouri) has some incredibly strong pro franchises,” he said. “I think it’s a shame we don’t have pro basketball.”
NHL supporters’ primary reasoning is that a Kansas City team would make an exciting rival for the St. Louis Blues.
Columbia resident Mike Tisa, who has been a Blues’ fan for more than 20 years, said he doubts an intense rivalry would immediately form.
“It would take time,” he said. “It depends a lot on how competitive each team is. I’d definitely rather see an NBA team. I want something new.”
Although the Sprint Center makes Kansas City seem like an ideal destination for an NBA or NHL team, there are obstacles for both leagues.
The NHL is currently in a lockout, which commissioner Gary Bettman said could last through the 2005-06 season.
There’s also no evidence to suggest Kansas City is a “hockey town.”
The NHL’s Kansas City Scouts moved to Denver in 1976 after two seasons. The team sold just 2,000 season tickets in its final season.
Some have argued that Missouri is much more of a college basketball state than an NBA one. Burchard disagrees with that notion.
“The Midwest is huge into basketball,” he said. “I think if it’s a strong franchise, Missourians will buy into it.
“The Royals are having a tough time, but we can all remember when that was a tough ticket. We’re not the Show-Me State for nothing.”
The Scouts’ and Kings’ failures don’t necessarily spell doom for the Sprint Center’s potential tenants. The NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild have been successful despite teams from both leagues leaving Minneapolis in the past.
The Orlando Magic are a likely candidate for relocation after seeing their season-ticket base plummet to 6,000 this past season, well below NBA standards.
The Magic are also unhappy with their arena, the TD Waterhouse Centre, and have been unable to convince Orlando’s civic leaders to support funding a new one.
The Magic have no legal ties to Orlando after letting their lease with the TD Waterhouse Centre expire and would be free to leave the city at any time.
Although the Sprint Center is scheduled to open in 2007, the Magic could play in Kemper Arena temporarily.
Until a new team officially calls the Sprint Center home, the debate will continue.
Of course, I’m 6-foot-6 and can’t skate, so you can probably guess my opinion.
John Miller’s columns appear Tuesdays.