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Headlines for Tuesday, July 9, 2024

A graphic representation of eight radios of various vintages, underneath the words "Kansas Public Radio News Summary"
Emily Fisher
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KPR

KPR Frequencies in Lawrence Fall Silent

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio's transmitter in Lawrence will be off the air today (TUE) and all day Wednesday, as crews perform maintenance work. Tower crews are trying to fix the station's antenna, located high atop the 800 foot broadcast tower on the west campus of the University of Kansas. This means FM 91.5 and FM 96.1 in Lawrence will fall silent. Affected communities include, but are not limited to, Lawrence, Topeka and parts of the Kansas City metro. Other KPR stations - the FM frequencies serving Emporia, Manhattan, Junction City and Chanute - will not be affected.

Listeners can still listen to KPR and KPR-2 online at KansasPublicRadio.org and by using the free KPR app.

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Chiefs & Royals: Will They Stay or Will They Go?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - Kansas and Missouri are engaged in another "Border War." This time, it's over the home of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. The state of Kansas is offering to build new stadiums for the pro sports teams on the Kansas side of the state line. The plan was put together after voters in Jackson County, Missouri, rejected a stadium sales tax to support the two franchises.

The Kansas City Star reports that a top Missouri lawmaker is hoping to keep the teams in the Show Me State. Missouri House Majority Leader Jonathan Patterson, a Lee's Summit Republican, says he expects voters in Jackson County, Missouri, to vote again on another stadium tax that would keep the teams in Missouri. It remains unclear when that vote would take place and whether the stadium tax would be designed to keep both teams in Missouri.

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Johnson County Election Investigation Concludes

UNDATED (KCUR) – After almost three years, the investigation into irregularities in the 2020 election in Johnson County is over. KCUR reports that the probe by Sheriff Calvin Hayden produced zero convictions. Hayden made his decision public in a news release posted to social media. Political opponents said Hayden was caught up in an election conspiracy theory. But in his statement, Hayden said he was investigating complaints from residents about the security of voting machines, drop boxes and how ballots were transported to the election office. The investigation produced one case that the district attorney declined to prosecute. Hayden’s decision comes just a month before the Republican primary where he faces a tough race against Doug Bedford, a former Johnson County undersheriff.

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State of Kansas Awards $1.3 Million in Grants to Reduce Chronic Disease Risks

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) – Kansas health organizations have received a total of $1.3 million in grants from the state health department to reduce chronic disease risks. The Kansas News Service reports that many will focus on tobacco use. Kansans making less than $25,000 per year and those with poor mental health are much more likely to smoke cigarettes, as are American Indian and Black Kansans. Danielle Ramirez with Tobacco Free Wichita says that’s partly because of targeted advertising by the tobacco industry. Her organization is receiving part of the grant money to fund tobacco recovery efforts, including a program that helps pregnant women quit smoking. “We know that pregnant people are very motivated to quit, for their health and the baby’s health. So getting them connected is something that we’ll be working on over the next year,” Ramirez said. All Kansans who want to quit can get free counseling, nicotine replacement therapy and more at KSquit.org.

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Medicaid Grant to Aid School Health Services in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A federal grant will help the Kansas Department of Health and Environment expand health services in schools - including mental health services. Kansas is one of nine states to receive thefederal grant. Bobbie Graff-Hendrixson, the state’s deputy Medicaid director, says they are in the early phases of planning and deciding what services they will offer. But one of the priorities will be to expand mental health care. “A child's coping skills need to be addressed when they occur, and many times those triggers occur during the school day," she said. By addressing mental health issues at school, emergency room visits could be reduced, Graff-Hendrixson said.

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Missouri Fire Official Drowns in Flash Flood After Performing Water Rescue

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — An assistant fire chief in central Missouri has died after the boat he was in capsized during a water rescue in a flash flood. The Boone County Fire Protection District said Monday that Matthew Tobben and another firefighter had just rescued two people from flooded Bear Creek in Columbia when the boat overturned. The other firefighter and the two rescued people were OK after being pulled from the water, but Tobben drowned. Heavy rain led to several water rescues in the Columbia area. More rain is expected through Tuesday as the remnant of Tropical Storm Beryl makes it into Missouri. Tobben’s death was the second blamed on flash flooding in Boone County in about a week.

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Rainstorms Pose Varying Threats for Farmers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) – Recent severe rainstorms in eastern Kansas have raised water levels in local rivers and streams. KCUR reports that the storms also caused flash floods over the 4th of July weekend. Alicia Ellingsworth is the co-founder and executive director of the KC Farm School in Kansas City, Kansas. She says it’s not just the water that poses a challenge for farmers and backyard gardeners, adding that “...the unpredictability is extreme...the wind that comes along with these storms is causing a lot of damage.” Ellingsworth works with local growers, and says that many rely on farming high tunnels that can be undone by strong winds in the summertime.

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What's Happening in the Kansas 2nd Congressional District?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/KNS) - Just two years after Kansas lawmakers reshaped the state’s four congressional districts, there’s an open seat in the 2nd District. Now, there’s a scramble on both sides of the aisle to secure that seat as the two major parties compete for control of the U.S. House.

Learn more in this report from KPR and the Kansas News Service.

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John Deere Announces More Layoffs in the Midwest

UNDATED (HPM) - Major farm equipment company John Deere is planning mass layoffs across two Midwest states, Iowa and Illinois. Harvest Public Media reports that more than 800 John Deere employees will be out of a job by September. According to recent layoff filings, the affected workers are employed at two factories in Iowa and a plant in East Moline, Illinois, close to where the farming equipment manufacturer is based. John Deere has already laid off about 800 other employees in Iowa this year. This follows recent sales declines for the company, as farmers who are navigating income crunches are buying fewer tractors and other equipment. John Deere employs more than 80,000 people worldwide.

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Sporting KC Players Will Head to Olympics on Team USA

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) - The USA men’s soccer team will play in the Summer Olympics for the first time since 2008, and Team USA will have a Sporting Kansas City flavor. Two players from Sporting KC will be traveling to Paris later this month - midfielder Jake Davis and goalkeeper John Pulskamp. They are two of the four alternates for Team USA. They could see action if any of the 18 players on the men’s team suffers an injury. Former Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio was also named to the USA team. He plays professionally these days in Italy. The U.S. team will open against France in the Olympics on July 24th and three days later will take on New Zealand.

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U.S. Adaptive Golf Underway in Kansas

NEWTON, Kan. (KPR) - The U.S. Adaptive Open golf championship continues in south-central Kansas. Nearly 100 men and women golfers from 32 states, including Kansas, are taking part - as well as players from 11 different countries. The Adaptive Open, held at the Sand Creek Station course in Newton, is for golfers with disabilities. For the first time in the three years of the event, there were qualifying rounds to even get into the championship field. Colton Dean, of the USGA, says the event’s growth has made qualifying rounds necessary. "We expected it to eventually get there with the U.S. Adaptive Open, but honestly the growth has been tremendous," he said. "We got there in Year Three, which we definitely weren’t expecting, but are super happy to see." The only Kansan who qualified is Kirk Holmberg of Hutchinson, who’s in the neurological impairment category.

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KC Fire Department Rescues Couple Lost in Cave 2,000 Feet Underground

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) - Two people wandered into a cave system in Kansas City Saturday night. They became disoriented and got lost more than 2,000 feet underground. WDAF TV reports that the man and woman had trouble calling for help but eventually found a spot where they could get cell phone signal. Around 4 am Sunday, they were able to 911. The Kansas City Fire Department responded and used ropes to rescue the 30-year-old man and 22-year-old woman. They were unharmed and refused medical treatment.

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What Does Ben Franklin Have to Say About Living a Useful Life?

Find out in this edition of Dan Skinner's Conversations. Former KPR General Manager Dan Skinner interviews former NPR reporter Eric Weiner about his book, Ben & Me – In Search of a Founder’s Formula for a Long and Useful Life. Check it out!

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Kansas Launches New Program Aimed at Attracting Residents Back to the State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A new Kansas initiative is aimed at attracting workers by highlighting job opportunities and more affordable housing compared to other states. The state is trying to reverse so-called "brain drain" by bringing people back to their home state. The Kansas Department of Commerce campaign known as “Love, Kansas”will focus on people who already have ties to the state but left to work elsewhere. State officials are especially interested in attracting younger people back to the state.

The Kansas population is aging, suggesting young people are leaving for opportunities in other states. Bridgette Jobe, tourism director for the department, says bringing back former Kansans will help boost the economy. “We have many high-paying, high-quality jobs, and we need people to fill them.” Jobe says the Kansas Legislature provided $2 million for the program. And a majority of that funding will go to nationwide marketing.

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Appeals Court Orders Release of Woman Whose Murder Conviction Was Reversed After 43 Years in Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An appellate court has ordered the release of a Missouri woman whose murder conviction was overturned after she served 43 years in prison, but the state attorney general is still trying to keep her behind bars as the case is reviewed.

Monday's ruling by a panel of appeals court judges comes after a judge ruled that Sandra Hemme's attorneys had established “clear and convincing evidence" of “actual innocence." Judge Ryan Horsman said on June 14 that she must be freed within 30 days unless prosecutors decide to retry her.

The appeals court granted Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey's request to review Horsman's decision, but told Horsman meanwhile to establish her bail terms and set her free.

The attorney general's office, which almost always objects to wrongful conviction claims, then asked the appellate court to reconsider, saying the court didn't give them enough time to argue against her release. Bailey's office also argued that Hemme was sentenced decades ago to 12 years for violence in prison, and she would start serving that penalty now. Her attorneys responded Tuesday that keeping her incarcerated any longer would be a “draconian outcome.”

Hemme, now 64, has been serving a life sentence at a prison northeast of Kansas City after she was twice convicted of murder in the death of library worker Patricia Jeschke. She's now the longest-held wrongly incarcerated woman known in the U.S., according to her legal team at the Innocence Project.

After an extensive review, Horsman found that Hemme was heavily sedated and in a “malleable mental state” when investigators repeatedly questioned her in a psychiatric hospital. Police ignored evidence pointing to a discredited fellow officer who died in 2015, and the prosecution wasn't told about FBI results that could have cleared her, so it was never disclosed before her trials.

The prosecutor at her trial agreed, four decades later, that nothing linked her to the crime other than her confession, which followed multiple contradictory statements, the judge noted.

Her attorneys described her ultimate confession in a court filing as “often monosyllabic responses to leading questions.”

“She is the victim of a manifest injustice,” Horsman concluded in his 118-page ruling. "This Court finds that the totality of the evidence supports a finding of actual innocence.”

But Bailey then sought a delay in Hemme's release to allow an appellate court review, saying she represents a safety risk to herself or others, citing a 1990s attack on a prison worker and statements she made decades ago about enjoying violence, and arguing that the evidence she presented is not “newly discovered,” so “Hemme did not meet the actual innocence standard as a matter of law."

The Buchanan County prosecutor's office, which tried the case, didn't respond to requests for comment.

Hemme was arrested weeks after the death of Jeschke, a 31-year-old library worker who lived in St. Joseph, Missouri. After Jeschke missed work on Nov. 13, 1980, her worried mother climbed through an apartment window and discovered her daughter’s nude body on the floor, surrounded by blood, with her hands tied behind her back and a telephone cord and a pair of pantyhose wrapped around her throat. A knife was under her head.

These and other details were released to the media by the St. Joseph police chief, Robert Hayes, as the crime prompted a massive investigation.

Meanwhile, the department took only a cursory look at Michael Holman, a since discredited St. Joseph police officer who was being investigated for insurance fraud and burglaries, and ended that investigation after evidence cast doubt on his alibi. Holman's plea deal included a promise not to prosecute him for any other “criminal matters now under investigation.” He died in 2015, according to the judge's finding of facts.

Hemme wasn't on anyone's radar until she showed up more than two weeks after the killing at the home of a nurse who once treated her, carrying a knife and refusing to leave. Police took her back to St. Joseph’s Hospital, the latest in a string of hospitalizations that began when she started hearing voices at the age of 12, and she was heavily sedated.

It turned out that Hemme had been discharged from the hospital and hitchhiked out of town hours before Jeschke was last seen alive. She showed up that evening at her parents home, more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the east.

Police interviewed the initial driver who provided her alibi, but this wasn't shared with the jury, the judge found.

Investigators began interrogating her as the psychiatric hospital treated her with antipsychotic drugs that triggered involuntary muscle spasms. She complained that her eyes were rolling back in her head. Detectives said Hemme seemed “mentally confused” and not fully able to comprehend their questions, her attorneys argued.

Hemme ultimately pleaded guilty to murder to avoid the death penalty, and after her plea was thrown out on appeal, she was convicted again in 1985 after a one-day trial. The prosecutor told Horsman that police never shared exculpatory evidence, including FBI tests that ruled out any connection between Hemme and crime scene evidence.

Police also didn't share key evidence pointing to their fellow officer, even though his pickup truck was seen outside the victim's apartment, he tried to use her credit card and her earrings were found in his home.

When Holman couldn't be ruled out as the source of a palm print detected on a TV antenna cable found next to the victim’s body, the FBI asked for clearer prints. Police, however, didn't follow up. An FBI report also found that a hair found on the victim’s bedsheet had “microscopic characteristics similar to Holman’s head hair samples and he could not be eliminated as the source.”

Jurors never heard these details because the police never shared them with prosecutors, the judge found.

“This Court finds that the evidence shows that Ms. Hemme’s statements to police are so unreliable and that the evidence pointing to Michael Holman as the perpetrator of the crime (is) so objective and probative that no reasonable juror would find Ms. Hemme guilty," Horsman concluded.

The judge also noted how police had showed Hemme crime scene photos and other details that a prosecutor later falsely told jurors only the killer would know. Chief Hayes — who died in 2010 after serving time for involuntary manslaughter — also was unusually involved, the judge noted, participating in questioning the victim's father as he described buying his daughter a pair of gold horseshoe-shaped earrings.

That those earrings were found in Holman's home is another fact the jury never heard.

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Melissa Etheridge Connects with Incarcerated Women in New Docuseries 'I'm Not Broken'

NEW YORK (AP) — Melissa Etheridge realized two career dreams with her new docuseries “Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken”: performing for incarcerated women and recording the concert for a live album.

The singer-songwriter grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas — an area home to a well-known federal penitentiary and other state and military prisons — and when she was starting out, she found a receptive audience in people incarcerated there. Inspired by Johnny Cash’s famous prison concerts, the two-time Grammy winner won permission for a live show at the Topeka Correctional Facility, a Kansas women's prison, with a film crew documenting the process.

In the series, which starts streaming on Paramount+ this week, Etheridge meets and corresponds with several people in the prison, learning how they ended up there. Their stories inspired her to write her new song, “A Burning Woman.” Many of the women had experienced drug addiction, and Etheridge said she connected with them after her 21-year-old son's 2020 opioid-related death.

Etheridge, 63, spoke to The Associated Press recently about her emotional 2023 performance and the new album. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: How was the experience of meeting the inmates and hearing their stories?ETHERIDGE: When I went and heard their stories, I was blown away that they were all mothers. That just really broke my heart. And then just how relatable. This could be my sister. This could be my friends. There but for the grace of God go I.

AP: How was realizing your dream of recording a live album?
ETHERIDGE: When I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, live albums were it. I mean, “Frampton Comes Alive!” That’s what you do if you can get to a point as a rock ‘n’ roll artist. I always wanted to and by the time I got there in the '90s, they were like, “No, there’s no live albums.” So finally! And I love this. It’s a really special concert. The setlist was curated for them. It had the few hit songs in it, but it had really deep tracks that really dealt with that longing and guilt and pain.

AP: You performed the new song at the live concert and it echoes some of the pain you heard in the inmates’ stories. How did it feel to see their supportive response?ETHERIDGE: It was even more than I thought it would be. That they jumped right on the call-and-response, and that they’ve got footage of the women saying “I’m not broken!” means everything. Because just saying “I’m not broken,” just saying “I’m worth it,” that was the whole intention for it. I hope people love it because it’s a rockin’ song. It’s a Melissa Etheridge song. I really like that.

AP: In the series, you play the new song for your wife, TV writer-producer Linda Wallem for feedback. Do you often solicit her opinion on new music?
ETHERIDGE: I love living with a creative woman. I love being married to someone whom I really trust their taste, because she doesn’t like a lot of things. She’s in entertainment — she’s been a director, a producer. She’s really used to telling people, “Hey, you might be able to do it a little better” — very famous people. So I know she’s not pulling any punches for me. And when she likes (the work) it means a lot to me because I don’t really have a lot of people that I can trust and be so raw with. I’m blessed to have a partner like that.

AP: There were several emotional moments in the concert, including when you sang about your son Beckett, who died from an opioid addiction — how was that experience?
ETHERIDGE: Before we walked on stage, I was with the band, and we all kind of huddled together and I just was like, “You know, this is a real dream come true.” And I went (mimics crying) “Oh, no, I’m on the edge here. This is not OK!” So I gathered myself together and I was all good until I started talking about that. To see 500 women who have been through more than I’ll ever — they’ve been through their trials and are not with their children. To see them show such empathy and compassion for me, that blew me away.

AP: It’s so moving to hear you talk about Beckett. You’re so wise and calm about his death in the series — how do you separate your grief, and did surviving cancer help you get clarity in that process?
ETHERIDGE: Plant medicine, plus cancer, and kind of a new outlook on life — and that was 20 years ago — it’s really worked for me because I’m very healthy and very happy. The idea that you suffer all your life and then at the end you’re going to get some sort of (reward) — that’s OK for some people, but I just don’t believe that. And that my son is in nonphysical (world), that life doesn’t end when we end, that there’s something in all of us that is eternal — those things comfort me, and so I believe them. It is the way that I walk through this, and I hope to inspire. But also, it helps me when I can speak directly. And every time I do say to someone, “Yes, he would want me to be happy,” I believe that and I know it.

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Royals-Cardinals Game Postponed to Wednesday Because of Rainfall from Hurricane Beryl

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The game between the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals originally scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed because of heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Beryl, which was moving through eastern Missouri on its way north from the Gulf of Mexico.

The cross-state rivals will play a split doubleheader on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The first pitch for the opener will be at 12:45 p.m., and the nightcap will begin at the originally scheduled time of 6:45 p.m.

The Royals are flip-flopping their rotation, with Alec Marsh (6-6, 4.57 ERA) starting Game 1 against Andre Pallante (4-3, 4.00) of the Cardinals. Michael Wacha (5-6, 3.74) will start the nightcap for Kansas City. St. Louis had yet to decide on its starter for Game 1, though Sonny Gray (9-5, 3.30) was originally scheduled for Wednesday night.

The forecast Tuesday called for rain lasting throughout the day and localized flooding. The rain was not supposed to ease up until the evening, though the forecast for Wednesday calls for warm weather and a sunny sky.

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Commissioner Brett Yormark Says Big 12 Has Solidified Itself as One of Nation's Top 3 Conferences

UNDATED (AP) – Brett Yormark believes the Big 12 has clearly solidified itself as one of the nation's top three conferences in a period of drastic change in college athletics, and the commissioner said the expanding league is more relevant than it has ever been in its nearly three-decades history.

“We are truly a national conference in 10 states, four time zones, and all eyes are now on the Big 12 for all the right reasons,” Yormark said at the start of league's football media days Tuesday in Las Vegas.

While the league's past national champions, Oklahoma and Texas, left for the Southeastern Conference, a move that became official last week, Yormark touted the additions of the Four Corners schools from the Pac 12: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah. Those schools are participating in media days before their Big 12 membership formally begins at the start of August to make it a 16-team league for the first time.

“On the football front, we will be the deepest conference in America. Every week will matter,” Yormark said, then repeating that for emphasis before moving on. “We have star power and parity. We boast some of the top players and coaches in the game. November will be incredibly exciting and we will brand it as a race to the championship.”

The SEC and Big Ten, the wealthiest and most powerful conferences, have worked together and at one point this year had proposed multiple automatic bids for their conferences in the College Football Playoff, which expands from four to 12 teams this season.

Yormark, going into his third year as the Big 12 commissioner after years in the entertainment industry, including a stint as CEO of Roc Nation, said his only thought each day is making the Big 12 the best version of itself. The Big 12 in 2022 extended its media rights deal with ESPN and Fox Sports through the 2030-31 school year, a move that came with two years left on the old deal and created stability and clarity for the league.

“Everything else doesn't really matter. And if we take care of business, we're going to be just fine,” he said. “Not only have we had a great 24 months, but we continue to get better.”

The Big 12 last month announced that the 14 schools that participated in the 2023-24 academic year shared a record $470 million of revenue distribution, an increase of about $30 million from the previous year. Without giving specific numbers, Yormark said the Big 12's sponsorship business grew 79% in the first year after that was streamlined to be handled directly by the conference instead of outside parties and that ticket sales grew 23% across the league.

Yormark said the league's top priority as a business is growth and creating value for its schools.

“As we build our brand, we will continue to build our business,: he said. ”We will not stumble into this new era following settlement. In fact, we will be aggressive and very proactive."

That settlement is the agreement in May by the NCAA and the nation’s five biggest leagues to pay nearly $2.8 billion to settle a host of antitrust claims. That decision sets the stage for a groundbreaking revenue-sharing model that could start steering millions of dollars directly to athletes, expected to be more than $20 million per school per year, as soon as the 2025 fall semester.

“We are going through a change, but I would rather call it a necessary reset," Yormark said. “In 10 years, I think we look back at this period as a positive moment in collegiate athletics history."

The commissioner said the settlement provides a very “crystal clear future and path forward” for college athletics and the Big 12.

“I often refer to our league as a mature startup,” Yormark said. “This means our brand can be younger, more progressive, and innovative compared to some of our peers.”

Yormark said the league is exploring all options, including Big 12 naming rights and private equity. But he didn't want to get into a conversation about private equity, then later said nothing is imminent on naming rights.

When he became the Big 12 commissioner two summers ago, Yormark was an executive with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and a former CEO of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. He spent almost 15 years with the Nets and previously was with NASCAR, where he oversaw a $750 million agreement with Nextel Communications for naming rights to the circuit’s top racing series.

“Do I believe in naming rights? I do. I’ve done quite a few in my career,” Yormark said. "I see the value, if they’re the right naming rights, and it’s the right partner. So we’re going to explore it and we’ll see where we land.”

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This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers. Our headlines are generally published by 10 am weekdays and are updated through 7 pm. This ad-free news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on X (formerly Twitter,).