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Saturday, May 18, 2024

A Wild Week in Stadium News for the Coyotes, A’s, Royals, and Chiefs

  • Venue-related developments take shape in Phoenix, Sacramento, and Kansas City.
  • The wife of Royals owner John Sherman says the team, and the Chiefs, will not reengage with Jackson County, Mo.
Arizona Coyotes/Gensler

A dramatic string of days in pro sports venue development—one that included a stinging voter rebuke of proposed stadium funding for the Royals and Chiefs in Kansas City and unanimous council approval of renovations to D.C.’s Capital One Arena—is ending with a flurry of additional facility-related events across the country. 

Among the latest happenings:

Phoenix

The Coyotes are taking their last and maybe best shot at a long-elusive arena and mixed-use development in the Valley of the Sun, announcing plans to bid in a public land auction for a 110-acre parcel of state-owned land in north Phoenix. After being previously rejected by voters in Tempe, Ariz., the NHL team began to focus on the north Phoenix property.

The auction is set for June 27, with an initial appraisal price of $68.5 million, and that outlay would become part of what is now envisioned as a $3 billion, privately funded project in total. 

In addition to the arena (above), the project would include a team practice facility and headquarters, a live music theater, a public plaza, retail space, offices, and about 1,900 luxury residential units. 

The stakes are enormous. If the Coyotes fail to win the land auction, team officials have already said that relocation becomes a very real option. Even before that, Salt Lake City had already made its intentions known of having an NHL franchise there, and the NHL Players’ Association has also pushed for a solution to the Coyotes’ arena problems that have stretched over many years. 

Sacramento

Perhaps ironically, the Coyotes are now also serving as something of a model for the minimum three-year stay the A’s have planned at Sacramento’s Sutter Health Park, a minor league facility. The Coyotes are currently playing at Arizona State University’s 5,000-seat Mullett Arena—by far the NHL’s smallest venue—while it pursues that new arena, but they have still seen ticket revenue rise compared to prior home games in Glendale, Ariz.

The A’s—along with new partner Vivek Ranadivé, who owns the Sacramento River Cats and Kings—are aiming for a similar dynamic playing in the 14,000-seat Sutter Health Park, and insist the team can quickly transform into a hot ticket. To that end, A’s owner John Fisher even went so far as to tout the forthcoming fan appeal of seeing his pitchers get lit up for home runs by their opposition.

“We’re excited to be here for the next three years playing in this beautiful ballpark,” Fisher said. “But also being able to watch some of the greatest players in baseball, whether they be Athletics players or [Yankees slugger] Aaron Judge and others launch home runs out of … the most intimate ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.”

Despite that novelty, the A’s still are by far MLB’s worst draw, averaging just 6,438 per game. That number could sink even further with the end in Oakland now solidified for the conclusion of the 2024 season, in turn lowering the bar for the A’s to clear at Sutter Health Park, which will receive a series of upgrades to adhere to MLB standards.

The shift of the A’s to the California capital, meanwhile, will also result in a still-undetermined number of job losses for both full- and part-time team staffers after the current season, as the A’s will lean on the River Cats for some front office and game operations duties starting next year. 

Kansas City

There is still no defined alternate plan for the Royals to build a new ballpark or the Chiefs to renovate Arrowhead Stadium following Tuesday’s defeat at the ballot box. But momentum continues to build toward the teams not staying in Jackson County, Mo., following the early 2031 completion of their current stadium leases.

Marny Sherman, the wife of Royals owner John Sherman, gave voice to that notion in a Facebook post strongly suggesting both teams will relocate. 

“Unfortunately neither team will work with Jackson County again,” Marny wrote. “They had been working behind the scenes for two years attempting to get a location approved. … The lack of leadership has lost the city two treasured assets. I mean if you don’t support the Chiefs after three Super Bowl wins, why would they stay? We will be lucky if both teams wind up in Kansas. At least still in the area!”

Indeed, leaders across the border in Kansas are beginning to mount their own pitches for the team. But Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas has not given up on retaining the teams, and he said Friday, “I thank John Sherman of the Royals for a good conversation [Thursday] concerning continuing work with Kansas City about the future. We are committed to maintaining the presence of both teams in our community.”

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