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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Three Votes Are About to Go Down That Could Shake Up Sports

  • Venue measures in Kansas City and Washington, plus a Disney board election, are set to happen in the coming days.
  • The stakes of the votes are enormous across facility development and sports media.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most momentous times of the year thus far in the business of sports is now beginning, with three critical votes scheduled for this week that will carry significant impacts on pro sport venues in two major markets, as well as the future state of ESPN.

The events scheduled for this week include:

  • Missouri: a Tuesday ballot measure in Jackson County to provide stadium funding for the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. The pair of teams are seeking to implement a ⅜-cent sales tax for 40 years, with that money targeted toward a planned new Royals ballpark and renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. Despite the Chiefs’ current standing as two-time defending Super Bowl champion and the Royals a fixture in town for more than five decades, this issue has grown tense, with both teams saying they “will explore all options for where we will play come 2031” should a “no” vote prevail. Chiefs president Mark Donovan (above, right) said he is “cautiously optimistic” about a successful vote. But early voting has already been active, and the ballot measure ties directly into a long-running and often-emotional debate about the use of taxpayer funds for privately held pro sports teams.
  • Washington: a Tuesday vote by the D.C. council to approve $515 million in funding to renovate Capital One Arena and improve Washington’s Gallery Place neighborhood. This vote is far less in question, with council members, including chair Phil Mendelson, participating in the formal announcement of the deal and approval strongly expected. But the pact ties the Capitals and Wizards to the city until at least 2050, which formally reverses a prior plan to build a $2 billion arena and mixed-use development in Alexandria, Va., and is aimed at reinvigorating an arena area that had become beset with issues such as rising crime and open-air drug use. The renovation plan will also aim to upgrade the 27-year-old Capital One Arena and likely take some influences from large-scale projects at other middle-age venues such as Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.
  • Disney: a Wednesday virtual annual meeting by ESPN’s parent company that will include an election of company directors. Activist investor Nelson Peltz is seeking two board seats and is running on a platform of implementing a more aggressive course of action in the company’s transformation efforts. Despite opposition from Disney itself and numerous other key stakeholders such as Star Wars creator George Lucas and former CEO Michael Eisner, Peltz last week gained support from a second proxy advisory firm.  

The stakes across these votes are enormous, and will go a long way to settling such pressing matters as where the Chiefs and Royals will play their future home games, whether there is truly a limit to public-sector support for pro sports facilities, how sports and entertainment will happen long-term in the nation’s capital, how ESPN will go to market in a period of unprecedented media disruption, and who will succeed current Disney CEO Bob Iger. 

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