17 years ago, Kansas City spent $250 million dollars in taxpayer money to update Kauffman Stadium, the ballpark for the Kansas City Royals. In exchange for getting this money 17 years ago, the team extended the ballpark lease until 2031. Given that Kauffman Stadium is one of the oldest in Major League Baseball (MLB), it wasn’t a surprise to see the Royals announce last year that they were looking into places for a new ballpark. But it was odd that the Royals admitted at the time to having 14 different sites that they were looking at for a new home. That seems like a lot. A few months pass and the Royals now have between 4 and 5 different sites that they are considering. A few more months pass and we arrive at today. The Royals are now claiming to be down to 2 separate sites.
The Kansas City Star wrote recently that the Royals are still “playing the field” when it comes to a new baseball home. And this seems to have pissed off, annoyed and angered everyone else in the city. The mayor of Kansas City is irritated that the Royals are trying to use cities against each other to get the best deal. Most city and state leaders are angry that the Royals are telling them nothing of substance. Former players are ticked off at the locations they are looking into. Fans are pissed off that the team is terrible. Like I said, everyone is frustrated.
One of the problems is that outside of the Royals narrowing down their site selection down, nobody knows what else the Royals want in a new ballpark.
“The (Kansas City) Star spoke with nearly two dozen political leaders at the city, county, state and federal level, along with business and nonprofit leaders and others seated at the table during ongoing talks. Privately, people inside those meetings expressed exasperation that while the Royals publicly portray progress on the stadium effort, there’s actually little momentum behind the scenes. Despite months of meetings, public officials still have no sharper picture of what the team wants. After all this time, do the Royals even know? ‘Get us out of purgatory’ said one city official who has been in meetings with the Royals. ‘We’re all exhausted by this conversation‘” – Kansas City Star, 06/14/23
The Royals basically agreed by admitting publicly in interviews that they were not hiding anything. They just weren’t sure yet what they wanted. Wait a second. The Royals do not know exactly what they want yet? Then why does this owner continue to discuss different dates to have a city vote on whether to allow for additional public funding for a new ballpark? Why did the Royals initially push for a public vote in August of this year? Then the Royals President of Business Operations told the media that a public vote could come in November of this year. Then he backtracked and claimed that November was too close. Meanwhile, the owner continues to tell people that he is “as anxious as you to get moving (a new ballpark)”?
In private meetings with city officials, the Royals talk about “urgency” with this new ballpark and development. Yet, the same officials see the Royals doing nothing to move it forward publicly. In addition, why are the Royals continuing to needle local leaders who for years have literally helped the team get land downtown for a potential new ballpark along with a surrounding district. The city has even moved publicly owned property to the Royals developer. When the city met with the Royals and their developer recently, city leaders were shown renderings for a downtown ballpark. Nowhere else. Which is why those same city leaders are confused as to why the team keeps discussing other lands.
By the way, how much do the Royals want in public funding? Currently, the Royals have “not made a specific ask” nor have they asked the city to formally negotiate with them on a downtown site. How could the public vote on something that isn’t known yet? Other than the owner informing us that the new ballpark and surrounding development would cost $2 billion or more, we have no other facts.
In 2006, voters of Jackson County approved
major improvements to both Kauffman and Arrowhead, with That money’s paying for the improvements already made to the stadiums until 2031. The Royals have expressed interest in building a new stadium downtown though.
“My understanding is they’ve even reached out to the county and asked them to put the extension of the 3-8ths cent sales tax on the November ballot,” Shields said Wednesday. “Now, in talking with individuals with the county, I think that’s highly unlikely to happen, but after all, everyone in the county’s up for reelection, so I’m not sure they’re really interested in dealing with their reelection along with the issue of, ‘what are we going to do about the stadiums?’”
“That is not true,” Kansas City Royals VP of Communications Sam Mellinger said Wednesday when asked if the Royals have gone to the county asking for the extension.
Presently, the Royals lease with the county allows the team to make money through a ⅜-cent sales tax. If the team wants to renew or change this number, it must be done through a public vote and “with the blessing of the Jackson County Legislature”. Local media has reported that the Legislature is still waiting for the Royals to answer the “most basic questions”. For example, what is the language used in the ballot? How much information is on the ballet? Unfortunately, the Royals have not yet provided any direct answers. This means that right now the Royals couldn’t even get to a public vote, much less win one.
“There are so many different layers to this that aren’t anywhere close to even a proposal … I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting this to a vote of the people … I don’t think they have a clear vision forward … They’re just trying to see what sticks. It’s just an odd way of leading the discussion” – Manny Abarca, member of the county legislature
Even today, we still have nothing.