Future of Chiefs, Royals in KC could hinge on Tuesday vote to help with stadium funding

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The future of the Royals and Chiefs in Kansas City could be shaped Tuesday when voters in Jackson County, Missouri, decide on the extension of a sales tax to help to pay for a new downtown ballpark and major renovations to Arrowhead Stadium.

In what is expected to be a close ballot measure, voters are being asked whether to essentially replace the existing 3/8-cent sales tax that has been paying for the upkeep at the Truman Sports Complex — the home of Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums for more than 50 years — with a new 3/8-cent tax that would be in place for the next 40 years.

The Royals, who have pledged at least $1 billion from ownership for their project, would use their share of the tax revenue to help fund a $2 billion-plus ballpark district, while the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs — who have committed $300 million of their own money — would use their share as part of an $800 million overhaul of Arrowhead Stadium.

“For over 50 years, we have been in partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs and Jackson County. It has been an effective and forward-looking partnership,” said John Sherman, the Kansas City businessman who purchased the Royals from the late David Glass five years ago. “We're the second-smallest city with both an NFL franchise and a Major League Baseball club, and we want to sustain ourselves as a major league city. We want to make sure these franchises thrive here for another 50 years.”

As part of new lease terms, the franchises have pledged $260 million, or about $3.5 million annually, that a committee appointed by the county and teams can funnel toward social and economic causes in the community.

Neither franchise has said what it would do if the tax fails, only that they would explore options. The current lease at the Truman Sports Complex lasts through Jan. 31, 2031, and the teams could extend their time there with two five-year terms.

The tax extension — or, more accurately, the stadium plans — has been met with significant public pushback.

Last fall, the Royals unveiled two locations for their ballpark district, one on the eastern edge of downtown and the other across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. Both were met with tepid fan reaction, though, and the Royals kept pushing back a self-imposed deadline to finalize the location.

In February, the Royals finally announced they had scrapped both of those concepts and desired to move to a downtown area known as the Crossroads, just blocks away from T-Mobile Center and the Power & Light District.

Sarah Tourville, the Royals' executive vice president, said the goal is to have the new stadium ready for opening day in 2028.

But questions remain, even as voters went to the polls Tuesday.

The latest ballpark renderings were made obsolete just last week when the Royals acquiesced to Mayor Quinton Lucas' request that a major street that would have been part of the stadium footprint remain open. The Royals have not said how they would fit the dimensions of a ballpark into a narrower tract of land, only that Oak Street would be undisturbed.

Lucas did not endorse the tax initiative until late last week, after the Royals had agreed to the change.

The club also has not reached sales agreements with many owners in the Crossroads whose land would be needed to build the ballpark district, and other businesses in the vibrant arts and restaurant scene have pushed back against the plans, expressing concerns about traffic, congestion and parking in an already thriving neighborhood.

“A lot of that will be discussed after April 2 with the city and the neighborhood,” Sherman said, adding that he believes many of “their businesses will boom” when the stadium drives thousands of fans downtown at least 81 times a year.

The Royals started play at Municipal Stadium in 1969, then moved to Kauffman Stadium in 1973 and extensively renovated the ballpark from 2009-12. Arrowhead Stadium was built alongside Kauffman Stadium and also was renovated at that time.

While the Royals intend to move from Kauffman Stadium, the Chiefs hope to stay put with a renovation that would touch every aspect of their 52-year-old building, from the seating bowl to luxury amenities to the tailgating scene.

There would be a new parking deck to provide players, VIPs and other special guests with a better access point. New pedestrian bridges would get fans from parking lots to the stadium. There would be new ribbon boards, video boards at each end would triple and quadruple in size, and the existing suites around the stadium would be renovated.

“We would not be willing to sign a lease for another 25 years without the financing to properly renovate and reimagine the stadium,” said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, whose father Lamar Hunt helped get the existing stadiums built. “So the financing puzzle is very important to us to make sure we have enough funds to do everything we’ve outlined.”

The Chiefs hope their recent success, including three Super Bowl titles in the last five years, will help to sway voters.

“What my dad loved best about the stadium was the connection the team had with our fanbase,” Hunt said. “He loved this building for what it means to the fans, and we still believe it is one of the best stadiums in the National Football League and a bucket-list destination for fans across the NFL."

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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