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Chiefs’ President: Team Keeping ‘All Options’ Open If Stadium Vote Fails

  • Donovan said he’s ‘cautiously optimistic’ that a public vote would pass.
  • He did not rule out severing the stadium partnership with the Royals.
Kansas City Chiefs president Mark Donovan
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs president Mark Donovan (above) described himself as “cautiously optimistic” that a scheduled April 2 public vote would pass on a ⅜-cent sales tax for 40 years, which would help fund $2 billion for the renovation of Arrowhead Stadium and a new downtown Royals stadium. But, speaking to a small group of national reporters over Zoom on Thursday, he reiterated that “all options” are on the table if the voters turn the tax down.

Asked whether that meant relocation elsewhere in Missouri or farther afield, Donovan declined to delineate what he meant by “all options.” If the public money falls through, he said, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is unwilling to sell a slice of the team to raise capital for the renovation. Wearing a Royals sweater to celebrate Opening Day (Chiefs coach Andy Reid is throwing out the first pitch), Donovan also did not rule out severing the long-term venues partnership with the baseball team.

The Royals and Chiefs have worked together since the early 1970s when their respective stadiums were built in the same complex.

“We’d have to look at all of our options, and that may include, you know, separate paths. We’ll see,” Donovan said.

Donovan says the Chiefs are making progress in convincing voters of the merits of the tax, which he described as investments in the community, more favorable leases for the municipalities, and the teams’ economic impact.

“And the reality is last year, just last year, this organization, the Chiefs’ organization, had a $993 million economic impact on this region,” Donovan said. (Economists often dispute economic impact estimates from leagues and teams.) “So we’ve been good partners; for a long, long time this partnership has worked. We have a massive economic impact. We have a really bright future. And we’ve just negotiated deals [the leases] that are unprecedented. We’re hopeful that it gets across the finish line. That’s what we’re focused on. That’s all we’ve been focused on. If that doesn’t happen, then we can look at our options and see exactly where we stand.”

The package would tie the Chiefs to Arrowhead through at least 2050, and possibly through ’65, depending on a series of five-year options.

While many new and renovated venues are part of mixed-use development projects, that is not the plan for the Chiefs (it is, however, for the Royals’ downtown prospects). In fact, business entities in the city of Independence, where the Chiefs and Royals currently play, don’t want the football team to develop the areas adjacent to Arrowhead, Donovan said.

“The former mayor of Independence and the Chamber [of Commerce] has come to us and asked us not to develop it, around it right now,” Donovan said. “They want to focus their time on downtown Independence and really growing that. And they feel like if we develop it competes with that.”

Asked about a letter sent Monday that complained about Jackson County executive Frank White to the county legislature, Donovan described the politician as disengaged.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our time delays, a lot of the deadlines missed in the process, more so on the Royals’ side than on the Chiefs’ side but affected both of us, were due to just a lack of engagement,” he said. “You know, honestly, we had multiple meetings with Frank’s team. … I literally only had, I think, two meetings in this whole process where Frank was in the room. So … it’s been a little frustrating … it’s been very eye-opening for me.”

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