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Border War Intensifies: Kansas Makes Swift Move to Lure Chiefs and Royals

  • A bipartisan supermajority of Kansas legislators approve bonding for new stadiums for the NFL and MLB teams.
  • Missouri officials complain the move reignites a border war between the two states.

With remarkable swiftness, Kansas legislators are moving to make good on their bold plan to lure both the NFL’s Chiefs and MLB’s Royals across the border from Missouri to the Sunflower State.

Less than three months after a ballot box defeat in Jackson County, Mo., roughly two months after the beginning of legislative efforts, and just weeks after the formation of an advocacy group to recruit the Chiefs, bipartisan supermajorities in both chambers of the Kansas legislature approved a measure to issue bonds to build new stadiums for the two teams. 

In a special session originally called to review proposed tax cuts, the Kansas legislators have authorized a bill calling for the use of Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) bonds to pay for up to 70% of the cost of stadiums for one or both teams. Final development costs have not been determined, but a combined bill for two facilities could easily surpass $3.5 billion. The bonds would be repaid through a mix of sales tax, sports betting, and lottery revenue.

The measure now goes before Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, who signaled a willingness to support it.

“Kansas now has the opportunity to become a professional sports powerhouse,” she said. 

Decisions, Decisions

Neither the Chiefs nor the Royals have formally pledged to move to Kansas with the passage of stadium legislation, and both teams released statements saying they are looking forward to further exploration and consideration of the potential opportunity across the border. The teams’ stadium leases at the Truman Sports Complex expire in 2031. But less officially, it’s clear there is a receptive audience with these moves, particularly in the wake of what happened back in Missouri.

“Missouri spoke. Jackson County spoke. They had their opportunity,” said Korb Maxwell, an attorney representing the Chiefs at a hearing before the Kansas legislature to review the bond measure. “But now, there’s a moment for Kansas to step up and an option for us all here.”

Manica Architecture, which is already working with the Chiefs, also released a new set of conceptual renderings (above) for a Royals facility located right at the state line in Kansas—though the team says it had no involvement in those images.

‘Border War’

Back in Missouri, both city and county officials called on Kansas to honor the terms of a 2019 truce between the two states to not poach businesses from each other.

“[The] vote regrettably restarts the Missouri-Kansas incentive border war, creating leverage for the teams but injecting even greater uncertainty into the regional stadium conversation,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.

At the same time, though, Lucas threw some shade at his neighbor, saying the Kansas legislation “provides only a speculative ability to sell bonds untethered to private funding plans, costs, locations, or discussion of the unknown consequences for taxpayers and existing businesses.”

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