Anthony Romano is pure Kansas City. Born and raised in KC, now he’s raising his own family there and spent the past year at any local sports fan’s dream job. In 2005 he was appointed to sit on the five-member Jackson County Sports Complex Authority.
“A lot of my friends have said, ‘This is natural for you,’ because sports is my first love,” says Romano. “Kansas City is very special to me, too. I’m one of those guys who didn’t leave town.”
Romano was appointed by the governor in June 2005 to finish the term of former Kansas City mayor Richard Berkeley. In the short time he’s been on the board, he can already claim partial responsibility for keeping major league sports in Kansas City after last April’s successful tax initiative provided money for improving the city’s stadiums.
The stadiums’ upgrades were necessary to keep the facilities “state of the art,” as outlined in both teams’ former leases with the stadiums. Without the tax initiative money, the upgrades would be impossible, and the teams were free to leave. “We negotiated for a good six months prior to the election to get the teams to sign a provisional lease that says if the tax initiative passes, they’re locked in [for 25 years],” says Romano.
Negotiations of that scale usually involve the bigwigs, and Romano sat side-by-side with some of the biggest. The night before the lease agreements were due, Romano was at the conference table where negotiations were taking place. Around midnight he announced he was going home to his family and waved to the Chiefs contingent, including owner Lamar Hunt and his family. “Mr. Hunt made a point to come out of the conference room, shake my hand and say, ‘Thank you for your commitment. It’s very nice to meet you.’ And then he went back to his chair,” says Romano. “The next day when the deal was struck, I found out he was there all night.”
Meeting the stars and enjoying the Sports Authority’s suite at Arrowhead Stadium are just a few of the perks, but most important for Romano was being involved in “the biggest civic issue in the area for the last 18 months.” And being at Arrowhead Stadium for the election party wasn’t bad either.
Romano has been with Polsinelli Shalton Welte Suelthaus for 19 years and says his ultimate dream job would be counsel for Major League Baseball or the NFL. But, he says, “that’s kind of a pie in the sky considering I’m chair of the labor and employment group at my firm and I love doing it,” he says.
Romano has passed along his love of sports to his children, and he’s also passing along his knowledge by taking turns coaching each one of his five kids.
If Romano is reappointed he will serve a five-year term. After that, he will donate his volunteer hours to breast cancer organizations in honor of his wife, Elizabeth, who is just beginning to recover from her own bout with the disease. But for now he is still basking in the recent stadium-funding victory. “Being a lifelong Jackson County resident, to have a part in making sure [the teams stayed there] was very rewarding,” Romano says. “That’s the best thing that’s happened.”