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Could The Star’s Soon-To-Be Vacated Building Make Way For A Downtown Baseball Stadium?

With the news that The Kansas City Star will vacate its massive, glass building at 1601 McGee downtown, the big question is what will become of the iconic, two-block-long structure.

The Star moved into the 424,000-square-foot building in mid-2018 after moving out of its longtime, red-brick home at 1729 Grand just a block southwest.

The Star sold the glass building in 2017 to Ambassador Hospitality LLC for just over $30 million, a fraction of its original cost of nearly $200 million. Through its parent company, McClatchy Co., The Star then leased it back for 15 years, with initial annual payments set at $2.8 million.

Rosana Privitera Biondo, a principal of Ambassador Hospitality, declined to say whether The Star would pay a penalty for ending the lease early. But she said Ambassador Hospitality was considering several possible uses for the building, including as a logistics center, a call fulfillment center and even a brewery.

“We have people interested in taking over this facility,” she told KCUR. “We don’t have anything firm yet because we’ve also been waiting for their [The Star’s] announcement, because you never know what’s going to happen until it happens.”

Privitera threw out one other intriguing use for the building, or rather for the land on which the building sits, although she refused to elaborate.

“It could be the possible new Royals stadium – tear down the building, buy our property, build across the highway,” she said. “Then we have the location for the Crossroads downtown, the walking paths that everybody in Kansas City says they want, and it would connect the Crossroads and the Power & Light [District] with the Sprint Center.”

The glass building faces the Sprint Center Arena across I-670 to the north.

Asked if she’d had discussions with Kansas City Royals or city officials about the prospect of building a new baseball stadium on the site, Privitera declined to say.

Privitera, who is also president of Mark One Electric, an electrical contractor founded by her parents, said Ambassador Hospitality was eager to buy the building in the first place because it was downtown and “we saw the synergies of future possibilities.”

The prospect of a baseball stadium downtown has long tantalized downtown boosters, and with the Royals’ change of ownership last year, the idea seems to have picked up momentum. Kansas City is one of the few major league cities without a downtown baseball stadium.

Businessman John Sherman, who leads the new Royals ownership group, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

If the glass building remains standing, it will no longer serve as the printing site for The Star and other newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Topeka Capital Journal.

In its announcement Tuesday, The Star said it would move its own printing to a third party beginning in the third quarter of next year. But it was unclear if the four massive, state-of-the-art KBA Commander printing presses housed in the building, which replaced The Star’s antiquated presses, would continue to handle printing for other papers.

Privitera said it would not. She said Ambassador Hospitality plans to move the printing presses out of the building and sell them.

That will spell the end of work for the production employees who worked the presses in the building. The Star said on Tuesday that 68 full-time and 56 part-time production workers will be laid off and be eligible for severance.

The glass building opened in 2006 and was known as The Kansas City Star Press Pavilion before The Star’s news, advertising and circulation staff moved into it more than two years ago. The move took place after The Star sold its red-brick headquarters at 1729 Grand, which it had occupied for 106 years, to developer Vince Bryant, who is converting it into a mixed use project.

McClatchy, The Star's parent company and owner of 29 other newspaper titles, including the Miami Herald, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Sacramento Bee, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in February. Hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, a major investor in McClatchy, bought the company for $312 million two months ago.

Copyright 2021 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Dan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and moved to Kansas City with his family when he was eight years old. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and holds law and journalism degrees from Boston University. He has been an avid public radio listener for as long as he can remember – which these days isn’t very long… Dan has been a two-time finalist in The Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, and has won multiple regional awards for his legal and health care coverage. Dan doesn't have any hobbies as such, but devours one to three books a week, assiduously works The New York Times Crossword puzzle Thursdays through Sundays and, for physical exercise, tries to get in a couple of rounds of racquetball per week.