The Kansas City Royals hope to settle on the location for a new ballpark by the end of the summer, and owner John Sherman said Thursday that he envisions the club playing in a new stadium by the 2027 or 2028 season.
The long-preferred site is near downtown Kansas City, where the park would be the centerpiece of a redevelopment project that links the eastern part of the metro to the vibrant area near T-Mobile Center. The location would keep the club in Jackson County, though far from the current Kauffman Stadium, and continue a trend of using sports to spearhead urban renewal.
But complicating matters has been a competing bid from Clay County, which sits across the Missouri River from downtown Kansas City. There is more space available for a ballpark village, much like the entertainment district that has sprung up around Truist Park in Atlanta, and that could help the small-market organization generate much-needed long-term revenue.
“We’ve always said ‘downtown or near downtown,’” said Sherman, who purchased the club in November 2019 from the late David Glass. “It’s a highly motivated and creative bunch (in Clay County), but we’ve been partners with Jackson County and in Kansas City for 52 years. We value that relationship. We want them to give us their best shot, and we’re going to give them our best shot to do it there. But I think we should be clear that there is certainly an alternative to that area.”
The decision, like most when it comes to building stadiums, could come down to finances.
The Royals have shared the Truman Sports Complex with the Kansas City Chiefs dating to the construction of both Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium. Part of the current lease agreement calls for a 3/8-cent sales tax that goes toward the upkeep of both facilities, and that in turn has allowed each to far outlive other stadiums built during the same era.
Sherman said the Royals want that sales tax to continue – it would likely be on the ballot in the spring – with the roughly $350 million that it produces in public funding shifted toward the construction of a new stadium.
“Ownership will take the rest,” Sherman said. “It’s a $2 billion project, probably more when you think of infrastructure.”
The Royals also have been in constant communication with the Chiefs, who are going through their own rounds of feasibility studies for Arrowhead Stadium. Like the Royals, their lease expires in 2030-31, and the Chiefs are trying to decide whether the stadium can undergo additional renovations or whether an entirely new stadium should be built.
The Royals quickly dismissed more renovations to Kauffman Stadium, where the concrete is beginning to show irreparable. It remains widely regarded as one of the most picturesque in baseball, but it also has grown antiquated when it comes to premium offerings that generate the sort of revenue that is necessary for teams to compete these days.
“We knew when we bought this team we were approaching the end of a lease with Jackson County. We knew we were in an aging building,” Sherman said. “This is the most important thing we’ll have the opportunity to do while we have the privilege of being stewards of this franchise. This will be the largest private-public partnership in the history of Kansas City. It has a massive and immediate community impact, and economic impact. That’s why we have a great sense of urgency of getting on with it.”
Sherman did acknowledge the awkward timing of the project. The Royals are languishing in last place in the AL Central, and are having one of the worst seasons in franchise history, which makes asking for public money a difficult proposition.
But he also doesn’t want the Royals to follow in the footsteps of the Athletics, who called Kansas City home before their move to Oakland. The A’s tried for decades to get a new ballpark built in the Bay Area, but they are now going through the relocation application process with MLB that could result in the team building a new ballpark in Las Vegas.
“I have about 30 letters on my desk asking to vote ‘no’ on the transfer of the A’s to Las Vegas. That’s a process that drug on a long time, and people waited,” Sherman said. “We’re at warp speed compared to how long these complicated projects usually take. We are down to two sites. We’re going to be ready to have that down to one by the end of the summer.”
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