Stadiums are the stuff of dreams. When voters authorized a $43 million bond issue in 1967, they were told that the twin stadiums would share a roof that could be rolled back and forth to cover baseball field or football field as needed. Later it developed that not only would $43 million not be enough, to include a roof, it was not even enough for the basic, everyday stadium without optional equipment. More revenue bonds had to be issued, and Lamar Hunt and Ewing Kauffman, the wealthy owners of the football Chiefs and baseball Royals, had to rally round with some of their own money. The total cost, without the beautiful roof, came to about $55 million.
Judge George Lehr, who is more or less supervising stadium finances, said last week, "There is no way we'll have a rolling roof unless Mr. Hunt and Mr. Kauffman want to put up another $18 million." Neither Hunt nor Kauffman leaped for his checkbook.
The delay is particularly galling for Kauffman. His lively young Royals, one of the surprise teams in baseball last year, were counting on the shorter fences and Tartan surface of the new stadium to turn them into prime contenders in the American League's West Division. Now it appears they won't get their advantageous new toy until July at the earliest, and possibly not at all this season.
Kauffman has been one of the most progressive owners in baseball in the three years he has had the Royals, but the stadium delay, coming on top of cash losses of nearly $5 million, has dampened his enthusiasm. If he had to do it all over again, he was asked last week, would he still buy the Royals?
"Absolutely not," came the sad answer. "I'd have to be stupid to do so."