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City Manager on Ballpark: East Village or NKC, Downtown Wins Either Way

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4 minute read

By Kevin Collison

City Manager Brian Platt has been on the job almost three years, enough time to get to know the city while still tapping into an outsider’s perspective from his government experience in Jersey City, outside New York.

That’s why getting together with him over coffee last weekend was a good opportunity to get his take on the biggest civic endeavor currently underway, the Royals quest for a new ballpark, and the city’s thorniest problem, public safety.

Platt is looking forward to working with the new City Council, a group who will determine whether he stays or goes at City Hall, and was intriguingly laissez faire about whether the Royals come to downtown Kansas City or across the river to North Kansas City.

Here’s his take on the ballpark proposal and public safety edited for brevity and clarity:

What’s the latest on the city and the Royals? 

We are supportive of finding a way to make a deal with the Royals in the East Village site…We haven’t been presented a real plan and haven’t really even began to negotiate with them.

We’re not sure what their timing is or why theyre hesitating so much. It seems like they’re having a lot of problems internally making it work.

The North Kansas City option is interesting also. Either way, Kansas City wins in that we maintain a baseball team, we grow the economy, we add jobs and people will still be coming downtown and going to bars and staying at our hotels. 

Either way, both sites will be developed into new, higher better uses.

Has the proposed East Village site been fully assembled?

There’s maybe one or two more parcels, but for the most part, yes. And the core stadium area, yes. They’ve got this vision to do ancillary development around the stadium and potentially east of 71 and they don’t own or control all of that land. 

Do you agree with the idea there’s enough existing parking in downtown for a ballpark? 

It’s an interesting concept but the user experience will not be positive. If visitors are being told to park in a series of garages that can be minutes or miles away it’s going to be inconvenient for people. It’s not the same experience of going to a game that everyone wants.

It also will cause massive traffic and congestion issues downtown if people are trying to go between all these different areas and there’s not a logical route into and out of the stadium.

The proposed East Village location for a Royals ballpark and ancillary development is located east of City Hall (upper left).
(Photo from ULI)

We also have to focus on transit….that’s a whole separate conversation we have not had with them. 

The North Kansas City site becomes interesting from that angle, potentially extending the streetcar a little bit farther and maybe some type of alternate transit options that move people in different directions away from there. You’ve got less density in that area, easy highway access.

The East Village is very complicated because of the highway (71) next to it and having to maybe move some on and off ramps, and impact the street grid which is the foundation of traffic movement in downtown. 

So, we’re supportive of the team, but we’re all a little frustrated with the communication and progress they’ve made.

Will new garages have to be part of the development?

I think so, there’s going to have to be some. and maybe park and rides, maybe a streetcar extension or some other type of transit extension.

What’s the potential city financial ask in a downtown ballpark?

Infrastructure and foundational improvements to the area, likely sewer and water, utility, streets and sidewalks but we’re not sure. We don’t know how much water service, electrical service they need. We haven’t gotten to that part of conversation.

The frustrating challenge we have is, we’ve said to them we need to know these things now so we can plan for it and determine how we can participate. We’re not interested in writing a check for $250 million.

We want to make sure we’re smart about this. We don’t want to take away investments from other places like affordable housing or improving quality of life in other neighborhoods for this baseball stadium. We do want to be able to support it.

The downtown skyline from the area where land has been assembled in North Kansas City for a potential Royals ballpark.

Would tax-increment financing likely be used?

Potentially or tax abatements, of course. The ticket prices. Why not add a few extra dollars onto the price to support debt service?

Moving on to public safety.

The city appears to be at an impasse trying to obtain local control of the police department. Understanding state control is likely for the foreseeable future, do you see a path forward to reduce crime and improve quality of life issues?

I think this new Council coming in is very interested and supportive of making change there. They’ve got great ideas, they’re very passionate about public safety and crime. Probably the top issue for all of them at this point.

There’s going to be great ideas. We’ll see some different types of initiatives and plans over the next couple years related to crime intervention and interruption, and the work that can be done on civilian side of things. Of course, we’ll try to work closely with KCPD.

A lot of what we need to do at this point is civilian side of things on the city. We’ve got this new $30 million violence prevention fund we can use to fund new violence interruption and prevention programs.

A lot of deployment of police resources can be determined through the staff side, the chief and her leadership team and City Council.

The Kansas City Police Department is run by a five-member commission appointed by the governor. It’s the only police department in the country not directly run by its city.

What about the apparent hostility that built up in recent years between City Hall  and the police department?

This new Council group will absolutely be a reset to those relationships. We can already see how conversations will be much more productive. We’ve also got relatively new police leadership, chief and deputy chiefs.

The beauty is, we’ve got so many options we haven’t tried yet. We’ve got so many tools we can use. Tools and techniques I implemented with success in New Jersey that can be done here. There are so many ideas from other cities as well.

We’ve not done a lot of these things yet, it’s not like we’ve been trying and something’s not working.

What can the city do to help KCPD recruit enough officers to reach full staff level?

The fire department was in the same place. We had record low applicants and trouble hiring. We’ve just put in our largest class ever, more than 110.

There are basic things we did: getting out into the communities, advertising, having the fire department be at public events and having positive interactions between fire fighters and the community. Showing them these people look like you and it’s an attainable job and also something to be proud of.

Payng them more, better benefits and showing we’re team mates and celebrating the work they do….the police department could do the same thing.

Granted, nationally we’ve got this negative sentiment for police we need to work through, but there are people out there that would love to be police officers and firefighters.

Tomorrow, we’ll catch up on some downtown development activity and what the city is doing to be more business friendly to developers and small business owners.

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