Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas says Kansas is positioning to steal the Kansas City Auto Show from Missouri with legislation moving through the Legislature.
Organizers of the auto show say the event is moving to Kansas on its own without any financial aid from state government.
The Kansas Senate has already passed a bill that would allow the auto show to move from downtown Kansas City, Missouri — where it’s been for more than 100 years — to Kansas.
The bill is necessary because state law prohibits an out-of-state car dealer from showing a vehicle in Kansas.
The legislation is set for a hearing before the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday.
The mayor is planning to submit written testimony for Tuesday’s House committeee meeting, continuing his call for “equitable regionalism and continued adherance to the border war agreement generally,” said spokeswoman Morgan Said.
“We have spoken with the auto show a couple times and lines of communication remain open,” she said Monday.
Lucas raised the issue on social media last week in the context of suburban law enforcement agencies dropping off people at Bartle Hall for the city’s overnight warming shelter.
“We welcome it because we care about people. But hopefully, this restarts a real regionalism conversation,” Lucas tweeted.
“And while KCMO uses its Bartle Hall convention center to shelter unhoused Missourians and Kansans, the KS legislature currently has a bill based solely on stealing the decades-running auto show from Bartle Hall to the Kansas burbs,” he wrote.
“Unbalanced regionalism at its finest,” the mayor tweeted.
A spokeswoman for the mayor said Monday that Lucas stands by his comments.
Organizers of the auto show say the mayor’s comments are misleading.
They said the mayor is lumping them in with the long-standing border war rivalry, where cities on either side of the state line use tax incentives to lure businesses from one part of the Kansas City region to another.
In a response to the mayor’s comments, the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Kansas City said it was making the move of its own volition without any tax breaks.
Larry Carl, the CEO for the automobile dealers group, said he thinks Lucas became frustrated with other local governments from across the state line relying on Kansas City services, like the Bartle Hall warming shelter, without responding in kind.
“I just think that our auto show got mislabeled or thrown into that frustration and it really doesn’t serve the greater concern that he may have regarding this unbalanced regionalism,” Carl said in an interview.
The group said it’s relocating the event because of the pandemic and the unlikely possibility of being able to hold its yearly show indoors during early March.
“The opportunity to reinvent the auto show at an outdoor location in June allows us to hold a more innovative, interactive, and experiential event,” Carl wrote in a respone.
“An outside venue also allows for more social distancing and other COVID protocols. We believe these changes will benefit consumers across the entire metro area,” he wrote.
Organizers of the auto show told lawmakers they plan to hold the event June 11-13 this year at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.
“We initiated the action to look for alternative locations,” Carl said in an interview.
Carl said organizers were looking for an outdoor location that would allow COVID-19 protocols to be more easily adopted.
He also said auto dealers were looking for a location — such as the speedway — that would bring energy and excitement and provide more of an experience for those attending.
Democratic state Sen. Jeff Pittman, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee from Leavenworth, said Kansas is not trying to lure the auto show away from Missouri.
The Kansas Speedway is in Pittman’s district.
“Certainly, no one went out and said, ‘We’re going to steal the auto show,'” Pittman said.
“When they start looking around for a venue and they see something as attractive as a motor speedway with a great outdoor venue that’s conducive for a lot of people going around safely looking at autos and trying them out on the track, it just makes sense.
“It looks like a perfect venue to me,” Pittmn said. “It’s a great attraction. It’s outdoors. It keeps everybody safe.”