Big questions to answer on new downtown KC Royals stadium

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The Kansas City area must insist on reasonable, transparent discussion of this proposal, with independently verifiable facts, not conjecture.

The Kansas City area must insist on reasonable, transparent discussion of this proposal, with independently verifiable facts, not conjecture.

Star file photo

Kansas City and the region are now closer than ever to a discussion about a downtown baseball stadium, and the future of professional sports in our area.

Royals President John Sherman released a three-page letter Tuesday evening that all but commits the team to pursuing a downtown ballpark. Renovations at Kauffman Stadium, Sherman said, would cost more than a new stadium.

“A new home would be a far better investment,” Sherman’s letter says, “both for local taxpayer dollars already supporting our facility, and for the Kansas City community.”

The letter says the team has found “several” locations for a new stadium, in downtown and close to it. None was identified.

The cost? Two billion dollars, the letter says, for a proposed downtown ballpark district, including the stadium, housing and entertainment options. “Our plans will be contingent on continuing our public-private partnership and investment with multiple local jurisdictions and the state of Missouri,” the letter says.

Jackson County taxpayers, Sherman said, would not be expected to contribute more than they do today. But the letter does not rule out extending an existing three-eighth-cent sales tax, approved by county voters in 2006, that is set to expire in 2031.

It would take a public vote to extend the levy.

The release is a welcome development in the confusing saga surrounding downtown baseball. We’ve asked the Royals to show their cards for months, and the Sherman letter is part of that process.

But only part. There are additional questions the team, and local politicians must answer before a serious discussion can begin.

A three-eighths-cent sales tax in Jackson County would not pay by itself for a $2 billion stadium project. How much money will the Royals contribute? What other tax incentives and tax breaks might the team seek? How much will the team ask Missouri to pay?

What other “local jurisdictions” — including communities in Kansas — are involved, if any? Have the Royals renegotiated expiring lease agreements with Jackson County? If so, what are the terms?

What about the fans, who have expressed some reluctance to attend games downtown? What are the reuse plans, if any, for Kauffman Stadium? Will the team play its games at the Truman Sports Complex until the existing lease expires in 2030?

And what about the Chiefs? Will the NFL franchise ask for, or expect, similar treatment? Can the region afford a $2 billion football stadium, too?

The Sherman letter makes several claims concerning the ancillary benefits of a downtown stadium, including additional jobs and “economic impact.” No one should take those estimates at face value. The area must insist on reasonable, transparent discussion of this proposal, with independently verifiable facts, not conjecture.

We have not taken a position on a new downtown baseball stadium, largely because the discussion has centered on vague goals, not concrete proposals. We’re closer to a full understanding of the proposal, but we aren’t there yet. We urge Kansas Citizens to wait, and see, before reaching a definitive judgment.

At the same time, the march to a new sports future in the region is clearly underway. Pay close attention in the weeks to come. Sports, and billions of dollars, are on the table.

This story was originally published November 15, 2022 5:53 PM.

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