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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Royals Commit To Building New $2B Ballpark in K.C., But It’s Complicated

  • MLB club looks to stay in Jackson County, but stadium deal remains incomplete.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs’ renovation plans at Arrowhead Stadium are tied to baseball progress.
Artistic rendering of Kansas City Royals' new downtown stadium.
Kansas City Royals

After months of rising uncertainty and local political angst, the Kansas City Royals have opted to build their new stadium in downtown Kansas City—and taxpayers are likely to get a better deal in the process. But there are still plenty of complications surrounding the planned $2 billion project.

The Royals declared their intent to construct a ballpark and mixed-used development in downtown Kansas City and remain in Jackson County, discarding a prior option to shift to a larger parcel in neighboring Clay County. The statement is part of a bid to extend by 40 years a current sales tax appropriation in Jackson County that would be used to help supply about $350 million in public funds toward the project. The Royals are still considering a pair of stadium site options in Jackson County, including a location in south Kansas City at the site of the former Kansas City Star printing press pavilion.

The club made a joint statement with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, who are similarly seeking to extend the tax and renovate Arrowhead Stadium. The teams face a Jan. 23 deadline to get on an April public ballot, and the tax issue is also set to be considered Monday by the Jackson County legislature.

“The partnership between Jackson County, the Chiefs, and the Royals has been a tremendous success over the past 50 years and directly responsible for much of the great momentum our hometown has built,” the teams said.

The statement follows recent negotiations in which the Royals and Chiefs agreed to pay stadium insurance previously handled by Jackson County, which is projected to yield $80 million to $100 million in savings to taxpayers. A further concession by the teams will allow the county to utilize about $140 million in an existing park property tax for non-sports purposes. County officials have been pushing for improved terms in the talks, in keeping with a growing national trend surrounding public funding for pro stadiums.

Still Plenty of Hurdles

Despite the improved clarity around the Royals’ stadium search, potential problems remain. Most of all, the team is reportedly still far apart in the lease and development negotiations with Frank White, Jackson County executive.

“No agreement has been finalized with either team,” White said. “As we navigate these crucial negotiations involving potential commitments of billions of taxpayer dollars, I want to make it abundantly clear: I have not, and will not, rush into any agreement.”

The Royals and Chiefs could circumvent White and get on the ballot without his approval, but that would require enough time and legislative support to overcome a veto. Currently one of MLB’s worst-attended, lowest-spending, and poorest-performing clubs, the Royals are eyeing the new stadium development as a key mechanism to improve their fortunes on and off the field. 

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