Super-Size Us!

The Strip can’t wait: In 2014 or 2016, Kansas City will roll out the red carpet for pudgy sportswriters, out-of-state strippers and a 70-year-old Mick Jagger loosening his pipes for a kickoff rendition of “Start Me Up.”

In case you were in Bangladesh getting an MRI and missed the news last week, the NFL has promised Kansas City — holy Roman numerals! — a Super Bowl … as soon as we put a rolling roof over Arrowhead Stadium.

The announcement goosed the increasingly tedious debate about the future of the Truman Sports Complex. The Chiefs and the Royals want taxpayers to pay for major renovations, but convincing Jackson County residents to cough up $465 million so the Leawood gentry can enjoy their beloved teams in the privacy of sparkling new suites was looking like a tough sell. But the hope of a Super Bowl, that’s a real game changer, as they say on ESPN. The prestige! The blimp shots! The Friday-night player arrests!

Adding a roof and the mother of all space heaters to the job list at the sports complex will add at least another $100 million, maybe as much as $200 million, to the already steep renovation bill, which makes this skeptical sirloin wonder: Is a Super Bowl worth the coin?

The pigskin worshippers at The Kansas City Star seem to think so. A graphic on the front page of the paper’s sports section last week projected that the city would stand to gain as much as $400 million by hosting the NFL’s biggest game. Of course, buried deep inside the story was this, uh, semi-important fact: “The economic impact of having a Super Bowl is widely debated.” The Star said some financial experts put the benefits at $300 million to $400 million.

And other experts said … what? The Strip was breathlessly waiting, but the Star didn’t tell.

Left hanging, this cranky cutlet shot e-mails to some of the most respected sports economists in the nation.

“A reasonable guess at the true increment to economic activity is more like $75 to $100 million,” said Roger Noll of Stanford University. He added that the numbers don’t take into account extra costs, such as paying for police, that Super Bowl-hosting cities have to cough up.

Rob Baade, an economist at Lake Forest College in Chicago, studied 32 Super Bowls and came up with an average economic impact of $92 million a game. Baade’s numbers are a bit more credible than the Star‘s figures, which sprang from a study financed by the NFL. Star sportswriters surely wouldn’t let their desire to cover a backyard Super Bowl influence their reporting, would they?

But, hey, the Strip likes a good party as much as anyone, even if the tab singes its already burnt ends. And what a party the Super Bowl is! If the big game comes to KC, visitors will be able to sample the delights of Westport and the River Market, though this hunk of meat suspects that the riverboats will prove the ultimate diversion. (You read it here first: If Missouri still has a $500-a-visit loss limit in 10 years, it will be waived the week of the Super Bowl.)

In addition to luring the expense-account set, Super Bowls bring in sportswriters by the thousands. And that’s what has this meat patty figuring that all this talk about how a Super Bowl will bring Kansas City international prestige is a bunch of bull. C’mon — entertaining a city full of Whitlocks and Posnanskis isn’t exactly as thrilling as a visit by the pope or, say, Jude Law.

The problem with hosting a Super Bowl in Kansas City is that, for all of our great city’s charms, the visiting scribes from Buffalo and Tacoma will be bitter because they’re not sunning their pasty hides in Miami or San Diego. Even a town with warm weather — Jacksonville, Florida — took it in the pants from these would-be Shecky Greenes last year. With no meaningful stories to write until game day, they ridiculed poor Jacksonville as “a yahoo town with no apparent borders” (The Boston Globe) and a place that “makes Tampa look like Paris” (The Washington Post). A few years earlier, after an ice storm froze Atlanta during the week of Super Bowl XXXIV, the swingin’ laminate brigade tore through the city like General Sherman on meth. The Strip won’t take too kindly to anyone dissin’ a similar Kansas City winter tradition.

Sadly, though, the rolling-roof idea adds to the city’s potential for humiliation. Even if the roof doesn’t spring a leak and come to be remembered as Lamar’s Folly, the Strip doubts it will be regarded as “a forward-looking gesture that would take Kansas City into the 21st century,” as HOK architect Dennis Wellner suggested last week. Yo, Dennis, the Toronto SkyDome and its movable roof opened in 1989.

This sizzler’s growing more suspicious by the minute, considering this newest bribe to make sure our stadiums get rehabbed.

Wasn’t it nifty that just one day after the NFL’s announcement, HOK, one of the big sports architecture firms in town, was able to show off a model of a movable roof and describe how much horsepower it would require? HOK had come up with such a design at the request of the Chiefs, who don’t own the stadiums but are presumptuous enough to hire a decorator. Yeah, the Strip figures it’s probably just a coincidence that Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson is married to Lori K. Larson, celebrated in the Chiefs’ own 2005 media guide as “a senior associate with HOK Sports Architects.”

The stakes in the stadium debate may have changed, but the teams are still calling the shots.

So now, the Strip can only pray that Jessica and Ashlee Simpson have a younger sister who will perform at halftime during Super Bowl XLIX.

Categories: News