Kansas City has a living room and it is furnished in a cacophony of colors and hues to create a kind of chaotic chic. The Kansas City Live! outdoor gathering spot at the heart of downtown’s Power & Light District was showcased to the rest of the country via ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup the past two weeks. And Kansas City looked and sounded spectacular.
Mayor Kay Barnes pushed Kansas City to approve the unique tax financing package to build the P&L District in 2005 and the criticism has been searing and constant since that date.
Critics screamed that the new downtown development merely robbed Westport and The Plaza of dollars that would have been spent in these more established entertainment neighborhoods. The lack of a professional tenant inside Sprint Center meant too many dark nights in the P&L. The sales in the P&L are nowhere near the projected numbers that were meant to pay off the bonds. David Glass should have built a new baseball stadium next to the P&L. All these criticisms have a solid ring of truth to them.
The more important sound though is the one that bellowed from our city’s living room over ESPN’s network and the many tweets and YouTube posting of the scenes from KC’s celebration of the World Cup. The P&L might not make business sense to an accountant, but you will have a difficult time convincing me that this financial boondoggle isn’t one of the city’s greatest successes.
Sure, moan about the tax shortfalls of the P&L and the bars, restaurants and businesses that have come and gone. It’s what we do when it comes to reviewing our city’s past, present and future. We see dark despite the light. And there is so much light going on at the P&L that looking closely at its success might blind you.
The photos and videos from Kansas City Live! during the three USA World Cup games made me happy to be a Kansas City guy. Where did that kind of spontaneous public display of united ecstasy and lunacy take place before we had the P&L? It didn’t.
Talk to anyone who was there to experience it these past two weeks. They will convince you it was one of their greatest memories in life. That is the kind of excitement that Kansas City once lacked but now owns. When big national events occur now, Kansas City heads to the Power & Light District to experience them together. They come from Lenexa. They come from Raytown. They come from Peculiar. They come from Westwood. And they come young.
These people aren’t your 50-year-old Royals fans. These Kansas Citians are the youth of our city. The young professionals and transplants from Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Illinois and the coasts. Check the faces of those in the crowd during the World Cup. They don’t look all that different than those in the black-and-white photos from Woodstock. Somehow those crazy hippies grew up to build a pretty great country.
What the P&L might be lacking when it comes to producing tax dollars it is making up in cool. Kansas City is a cool place to live, work and enjoy life. We have always known that. The P&L is helping us send that message to the rest of the country.
Tax dollars are an important part of a community’s success. A healthy stream of young people moving here and making Kansas City their home is even more important for our future. A future that looks like an awful lot of fun.
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