The Big 12 basketball tournament starts today at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. The multi-day event generates an estimated $13.6 million for the local economy.
At the same time, the Missouri legislature is looking at three bills that would require people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates. If passed, such a measure could prevent Kansas City from keeping or getting other big events.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby says he's closely monitoring the bills’ progress.
“I think that our 10 university presidents would want to think long and hard if the bill was passed or other bills were passed that seemed to be in some way discriminatory,” says Bowlsby.
Mayor Sly James says Kansas City wants to make everyone feel welcome and hopes Missouri lawmakers avoid the mistake made by North Carolina when it passed its so-called bathroom bill last year. Basketball tournaments, concerts and businesses pulled out of the state in response.
“I think we’re optimistic that cooler heads will prevail and they won’t do something that harms the economic vitality of this city and the state,” the mayor says.
This year's tournament runs through March 11. The Sprint Center has a contract to host the Big 12 through 2020.
Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR.