The University of Kansas and Kansas State University aren’t the only entities that will suffer if the Big 12 withers on the vine. Kansas City is set to lose a chunk of change as well.
Kansas City, Mo. banked a lot when it opted to build the Sprint Center and adjacent Power and Light District a few years ago. The tax credit financing that helped the arena be built has yet to meet revenue projections – meaning all Kansas City residents are subsidizing the sports and entertainment district.
That was never the plan. The debt payment on the center hinged on a few things – the Sprint Center attracting a major tenant, like a professional ice hockey or basketball team, and the center being used often by entities like the Big 12.
To date, the city has been unsuccessful in its attempts to lure a regular tenant. But city officials have had luck in attracting Big 12 events including the Big 12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championship tournaments this spring.
Arrowhead Stadium also hosts its share of Big 12 football games. The recently established “Border War” game between the University of Missouri and KU has been played at Arrowhead for the last two years. That tradition was likely to continue under the Big 12.
And Arrowhead had been in discussions with KSU and Iowa State to host regular games at the iconic stadium. In the meantime, Arrowhead regularly hosts the Big 12 Championship football game and has hosted non-conference games at the stadium as well.
If the Big 12 dies, so too does the city’s ability to attract major college sporting events to town.
Two of the three area schools, KU and K-State, don’t appear to be getting any offers to join any of the established conferences. And it’s questionable whether an offer to join the Big 10 will materialize for the Mizzou.
Should another major conference come calling for the any of the three, it’s unlikely they’ll be as willing as the Big 12 to make Kansas City a common home for college games. Regionally, it just won’t make sense.
There’s a reason politicians are starting to get involved in the college sports world. Major college conferences are not just big money to publicly-funded universities. It’s also big money to cities in the region.
Being able to attend the occasional major college game practically in our own backyard is a huge boon to Jayhawk, Wildcat and Tiger fans in the Kansas City metro area. It’s also an economic dream come true for Kansas City proper.
The tradition of watching those rivalries die will be painful for fans of all three schools. It will be doubly painful for the lost dollars to the sports industry around Kansas City, businesses near Arrowhead and the Sprint Center.
Kansas City may be one of the biggest losers of all if the Big 12 breaks up.