One of the new partners in a $42 million sports complex being planned for the Chesterfield Valley, Dan Buck, runs a foundation to teach young baseball players teamwork and respect — a group that will be the beneficiary of the for-profit side of the development, and active on site.
But Buck himself might want to learn a little respect when it comes to world religions and dealing with people of faith other than his own. In a call he initiated last year to The McGraw Show on KTRS (550 AM), Buck blasted Islam, saying it wasn't just extremists committing acts of terrorism — but that such acts are at the core of the faith.
"It's not [just] by extremists," the would-be developer told host McGraw Milhaven. "It's a religious doctrine we're up against."
The comments, which go on for about ten minutes, came last November, when Buck called up the show to argue with Milhaven over his assertion that Islam is a religion of peace and that Syrian refugees should not be banned from the U.S.
Buck told the RFT yesterday that his on-air screed was not relevant to the Chesterfield project.
"Don't bring that into this," he insists. "Seriously, that was a discussion about vetting Syrian refugees, and I thought there should be a strong vetting system."
But Buck's comments seem to go beyond just the refugee question. Throughout the call, he argued that the religion itself breeds violence. At one point, he told Milhaven, "Read the Koran, a chapter at a time. There's no New Testament. It's throughout the entire book. If you are not among their believers, they see you as the enemy throughout the whole thing."
A former anchor at KSDK, Buck left television in 2003 and found work as CEO of the St. Patrick Center and then vice president of philanthropy for SSM Health Care, a position he left in 2015. Earlier this year, Buck began hosting mercifully short-lived program called The Manly Man Show on Fox Sports Midwest. He also runs a marketing company, Buck Innovation Group.
For his latest turn as a real estate developer, he's partnered with St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. For Matheny, the project is a return to the scene of his worst loss: the Chesterfield Valley. It was there that a disastrous real-estate investment plunged Matheny $4 million in debt, forcing him to sell his family's Wildwood mansion in 2010 and move in with his in-laws. Now he's back, leading a team of investors to build an estimated $42 million sports complex on a 30-acre plot near the very same stretch of Highway 40 in the Chesterfield Valley.
Plans for the Chesterfield dome complex included in a 'letter of intent' signed last month by the city and developer.
Matheny isn't just lending his name to the project. As it turns out, his partner Buck is really big fan of Matheny's manifesto, a 2,500-word essay that mostly serves to castigate the parents of little league players. Last year, the manifesto was adapted into a full-length memoir, and Buck tells Riverfront Times that the book will be used as a guiding text — a Bible of sorts — for all youth sports and education programs in the Chesterfield dome complex.
"His book will be brought to life through a curriculum-based classroom program that will take place at this facility," Buck says. "It’ll be unique that way, there’s no other tournament facility in the country that has this much integrated education to the environment. It will be mandatory. If you play here, you’ll learn here."
Buck has long been involved in youth sports, both as a coach and as the founder of the BASE (Baseball And Softball Education) Foundation. Created in 2006, the foundation seeks to educate young players on respect and teamwork, while combating "[a] growing trend of angry parents, a clear lack of respect for rules, officials and opponents, and a glaring problem with ballplayers unable to control their negative emotions," according to the foundation's website.
The BASE Foundation is acting as the nonprofit partner in the Chesterfield venture, and its programs will be funded by the various businesses ventures attached to the sports complex. According to a letter of intent signed last month by Buck and the City of Chesterfield, the project will be anchored by a dome and indoor sports fields; the surrounding area will be teeming with restaurants and retail outlets. Also planned is a 220-room hotel, office space, a 40,000-square-foot education center, an urgent care facility, zip line and climbing wall.
The profits from all that economic activity, says Buck, will fund the BASE Foundation's youth sports tournaments and its ongoing mission to fill the minds of young ballplayers with the wisdom of Matheny's manifesto.
"The hotels make money, the restaurants make money, and part of that they give back to the non-profit to keep the dome viable and the education programs thriving and moving forward," Buck says.
When asked about his stance on Islam and whether Muslim parents should feel comfortable allowing their children to participate in the complex's educational and athletic activities, Buck maintained he has no animosity towards Muslims. He said his comments about Islam were focused strictly on refugees.
That's not entirely true. Buck had called into Milhaven's show initially to complain that the host was characterizing mass-murderer Timothy McVeigh as a representative of Christianity. Buck went on to argue that there should be no comparisons between a crazy person like McVeigh and the sorts of violent beliefs shared by "millions" of Muslims. Milhaven pointed out all religions can be corrupted by violence. Buck shot back that Islam is different, and that reading the Koran is "frightening."
The back-and-forth lasted ten minutes, with the discussion touching on Buck's interpretations of the Koran and his opinions about differentiating between peaceful Muslims and violent Muslims.
"It's an entire religious doctrine that promotes jihad against the founding religion of our nation," he told Milhaven. "You have to recognize that as a true threat."
Buck tells RFT that the educational programs at the Chesterfield complex will not include religious content or preaching, only lessons about teamwork and leadership. He also says that he has many Muslim friends.
"It will not be, in any way, a discriminatory environment," he says of the Chesterfield sports complex. "This is about using the wholeness of sport to give kids the opportunity to grow as individuals."
In any case, Buck and Matheny are poised to erect what the Chesterfield City Director Mike Geisel has called as “largest indoor sports facility in North America.”
The city has thrown its full support behind the project. As first reported by independent journalist John Hoffman, the city is leasing the development group a 30-acre plot of parkland for the dome site. The city will spend about $2 million to purchase an additional 22 acres adjacent to the dome; the land will be leased back to Buck.