Sprint Center investment pays off for KC
The Kansas City Star
Sprint Center has been a big success even though Kansas City has not landed a major league basketball or hockey franchise.
Put another way, the still-gleaming arena has helped energize downtown since it opened five years ago largely because it doesn’t host a permanent sports team.
By not setting aside dozens of dates for professional basketball or hockey games, Sprint Center’s operators at the Anschutz Entertainment Group have had to hustle to bring in a wide variety of high-quality events. Metropolitan area residents have had opportunities to see top concerts featuring all kinds of music — along with the circus and monster truck extravaganzas.
To this point, Sprint Center has been one of those unusual public-private ventures that largely worked as promised. Voters endorsed higher hotel and rental car fees in 2004 to help pay for the project.
AEG kept its word by pumping in tens of millions of dollars toward building the arena. The city’s fee revenues have come in pretty much as expected to pay off bonds for the center. It was built close to its original budget, again not something seen frequently enough when public dollars are involved. As a bonus, the city has reaped more than a million dollars a year in extra income from the arena’s successful operations.
Finally, Sprint Center has attracted hundreds of thousands of people into a newly revitalized downtown Kansas City. While the nearby Power & Light District continues to have economic problems, the challenges would be even more severe without the customers delivered by the arena.
Looking ahead, the city needs to keep a close eye on who buys AEG, which is now for sale, and whether the new operator starts cutting corners in booking first-class events at Sprint Center. The top priority for local sports boosters is to keep the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament at the center long into the future. And the city has to make sure it keeps the building properly maintained.
Sprint Center has played a key role in creating a better image for downtown. Kansas Citians made a wise investment that should continue paying off for many years.