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City planners pushing downtown ballparks might like the density, but Kansas City fans would opt for safety and convenience, like at the “K”

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger is a walker.

“There’s something very natural about walking through a dense downtown and going to a baseball game,” Goldberger told Kansas City National Public Radio affiliate KCUR.

Like most ambitious cities, Kansas City caters to the “walker” genre. You know the type: young, fit, barely urbane and self-involved. We gave them light rail, bike paths, entertainment zones, soccer stadiums and, soon enough, unless common sense prevailed, their own baseball field.

Walkers thrive at the expense of the “chauffeur” suburban genre.

Goldberger does not understand the latter type. Walking down busy streets, he tells us, “is a far cry from the more suburban kind of experience of getting into your car and parking and walking across acres of asphalt to get into something.”

Looking at the urban “walker” genre over the years, the “walkers” in the hit TV show come to mind quite a lot The walking dead. Our zombies, like theirs, have no mind of their own, follow where led, make a lot of noise, and are too eager to infect others.

Among those who have been bitten by the downtown ballpark bug in these parts is Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

The mayor, it seems, has a broader view of downtown than Goldberger, a resident of New York City’s Upper West Side. Lucas imagines the downtown park is “probably north of the train tracks which are roughly on 22nd Street. And then probably somewhere between the state line and obviously, I’d say Woodland (Avenue).”

Goldberger, the author of Baseball field: baseball in the American city, knows its downtown baseball fields. I’m just not sure he knows anything about KC.

Living in Kansas City and having attended high school in New York City, I can assure Mr. Goldberger that there is a qualitative difference between strolling, say, Central Park West and scurrying down Woodland after dark.

As for the mayor, I’m sure he knows the local geography. He seems less knowledgeable about local sociology. The truth is, the average suburban Jackson County “driver” — the guy who pays for the park — would rather go to the opera than catch a baseball game at or near either end of 22nd Street.

Experience makes the case. The moribund Kemper Arena sits on 18th Street, a few blocks east of the State Line, and we know how that worked. It didn’t happen. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is located on 18th Street, one block west of Woodlawn, and we know how that worked. It didn’t happen.

Fans have to be psycho to visit either. A late night stroll from Woodlawn to the light rail station on Main has the potential to turn a driver into a walker. Headlines like “2022 beats 2021 for second-deadliest year in Kansas City” don’t inspire confidence.

For the record, the city’s deadliest year was 2020. That was the year Lucas knelt with rioters in the city’s famed Country Club Plaza and sang “no justice, no peace.” Whatever his intentions, the mayor’s gesture encouraged street thugs to think of themselves as Robin Hood. They responded with the bloodiest years in the city’s history, the city averaging 170 homicides a year during that three-year period of Lucas’ tenure.

I’m not sure I believed the mayor’s promise to bring the annual homicide countdown to less than 100, but I endorsed Lucas in 2019, believing him at least sincere. As they say, fool me once…

The upshot of this chaos is that a ballpark will need a significant police presence to protect those walking to or from a night game. The reality is that even a single shot, lethal or otherwise, will reduce attendances as much as a 12-game losing streak. (Shhh! We shouldn’t talk about it).

In truth, no place downtown, however safe, makes sense. I was reminded of the same thanks to a random phone call I received from a longtime supporter and member of the Royals Lancers baseball ambassador group.

“By the way,” I asked, “how about a baseball field downtown?”

“I think he stinks,” said my octogenarian friend, Gary Lint, a suburban driving guy.

“Can I sue you?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” Gary said. After talking to some of his fellow Royals supporters, he assured me, “I haven’t had anyone say that a downtown ballpark is a great idea.”

Gary shared his experience attending a game in downtown St. Louis. It took him an hour and a half to exit the multi-storey car park at the end of the game. That was enough for him.

And then there’s the question of money. Royals chairman and CEO John Sherman said the Royals would be willing to make a few hundred million, but the estimated price tag of a new downtown ballpark is $2 billion.

Unless Sherman is elected president of Ukraine, I suspect the Jackson County taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

For what? As someone whose first ballpark experience was Yankee Stadium, I marveled at the simplicity of catching a Royals game when I first moved here. From my midtown home, it was a stress-free 15-minute drive, an easy drive into an endless parking lot and a five-minute stroll across lovely “acres of asphalt” amidst happy families with no anxiety other than gambling. result.

Urban planners like complexity and density. They and their allies have imagined a climate apocalypse to scare others into appreciating complexity and density as well.

To test their success, I’d recommend a ballpark referendum for Jackson County voters, one not rigged like the outrageous light rail vote that made Georgia’s old poll taxes look like equity in action.

Let’s see if urban pedestrians can convince suburban drivers to abandon the “K” — a perfectly located, safe, and easily accessible ballpark — for the “Q,” a downtown ballpark that’s neither of those things. .

Once voters weigh in, the Royals can take the promised few hundred million and fix the K — if, that is, the K really needs the kind of fix the Royals say they need.

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