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Jackson County will vote on sales tax to fund Royals and Chiefs stadiums

The Texas Rangers play the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium as a sunset lights up the sky during a baseball game in Kansas City, Missouri, Monday, June 27, 2022.
Colin E. Braley
Associated Press
The Texas Rangers play the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium as a sunset lights up the sky during a baseball game in Kansas City, Missouri, Monday, June 27, 2022.

The Royals have yet to choose a final site for the team's ballpark, but have said that they want the current 3/8th-cent stadium sales tax renewed for 40 years to fund the project. That renewal is now slated for the April ballot in Jackson County.

A major puzzle piece for the Kansas City Royals’ new baseball stadium is now in the hands of Jackson County voters.

The Jackson County Legislature voted 8-1 on Monday to put a sales tax measure on the April ballot that would help fund the ballpark.

The measure, if it passes, will renew the current 3/8th-cent sales tax for 40 years, with the revenue split evenly between the Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs.

The legislature’s advancement of the measure clears one key hurdle for Royals owners, who indicated the 3/8th-cent sales tax is crucial to fund the new stadium. In order to make the April ballot, as the owners wanted, Jackson County’s legislature had to approve the measure by January 23.

Legislator Megan Marshall was the lone no vote.

Jackson County Executive Frank White, who has provided a strong dissenting voice in the stadium discussions, had asked the legislature to hold the measure for four days. He wanted the county to negotiate more with the Royals and potentially extract more concessions.

White did not say Monday whether he would veto the legislature’s action. He has 10 days to make that decision, and the legislature would need six votes to override his veto.

“I always believe that when you're moving into something this dynamic, then you ought to have a lease agreement in place before you put it on the ballot,” White said following the vote.

In 2006, when the stadium sales tax previously went on the ballot, the Royals had a lease agreement in place before the April election.

The Royals have not chosen a site for the proposed $2 billion ballpark and entertainment district. The team is reportedly considering three locations: the East Village in downtown Kansas City, the East Crossroads at the site of the former Kansas City Star building or North Kansas City in Clay County.

However, the Royals promised to remain in Jackson County if voters approved the stadium sales tax.

It’s unclear when the Royals will make their final decision. Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca IV said taxpayers should know the site location before the April election.

“That would be ideal,” Abarca said. “I think for the ballot, the people need to know where they're gonna have a team.”

Neither team has finalized a lease agreement with the county, and their current lease at the Truman Sports Complex ends in 2031.

White said the team’s ask for a new stadium seems to be a want, rather than a need.

“I think taxpayers deserve a lease, a signed lease,” White said. “I think that when it's open like this, who knows when they'll come back to the table.”

White also says he wants a community benefits agreement with the Royals, which workers rights groups have said is crucial to guarantee a living wage for stadium workers, union jobs, and affordable housing in the stadium district.

White said that such a deal is “vital to ensure that the project delivers tangible and lasting benefits to our community.”

Before the legislature’s meeting on Monday, workers rights groups said the Royals agreed to negotiate a community benefits agreement with them.

“If you're not at the table, you're on the menu,” said Stand Up KC leader Terrence Wise. “So to be at the table and have a voice and to be able to negotiate anything is definitely a victory.”

Another of White’s demands for the Royals is an agreement that covers the costs associated with the demolition of Kauffman Stadium and a commitment that both the Royals and Chiefs maintain their front offices and training facilities in Jackson County for the duration of the lease.

White told the legislature on Monday that he requested $25 million annually from the Royals and Chiefs, which would amount to $1 billion over 40 years. White said that ask is still being negotiated.

“This commitment is not just a matter of local pride; it is also about economic stability and the sustained growth of our county,” White said in a statement.

On Friday, the Chiefs joined the Royals to issue a joint statement committing to stay in Jackson County if voters renewed the sales tax. The Chiefs said the tax would fund an “extensive renovation” to Arrowhead Stadium.

The statement also helped assuage concerns that the teams may jump state lines in search of a more lucrative deal.

The Royals also committed to covering the insurance costs of a new stadium for the 40-year duration, which the team claims will save Jackson County $80-100 million.

The teams also said they would not ask Jackson County for revenue collected from the park levy, which currently provides $3.5 million annually to the Truman Sports Complex. The Royals receive half of those funds.

The Chiefs and Royals said that such concessions would save the county about $200 million in total.

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Celisa Calacal