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Kansas City Royals CEO asks public to 'hold us accountable' as team plans new downtown stadium

Artist rendering
Kansas City Royals
John Sherman said in an open letter to fans and the community in November that the upkeep at Kauffman Stadium by the time the lease is up in 2031 will amount to as much or more than what it would cost to build a new ballpark. Above, an artist rendering of a new stadium near downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

During a community listening session, Royals Chairman John Sherman addressed issues surrounding a move from Kauffman Stadium, including opposition expressed by the renters’ organization KC Tenants.

More than 300 people showed up Tuesday night to question Kansas City Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman about his plans to build a new baseball stadium in or near downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Drawing the loudest response was Sherman’s response to a question late in the evening.

“Can you go on record tonight making a solemn promise that the Royals will remain in Kansas City, Missouri?” asked broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre.

“We can do that,” Sherman said after a cheer subsided. “We can do that.”

Lefebvre served as emcee of the town-hall style meeting at Midtown’s Plexpod, reading a handful of 150 questions submitted by the audience to Sherman, other team officials and two of the city’s most prominent sports architecture figures, Earl Santee and Sarah Dempster of Populous.

Sherman and others addressed several complex issues during the session, including opposition to a downtown stadium expressed by the renters’ organization KC Tenants.

“As landlords raise rents across the city and as our people struggle to find decent homes, the proposed downtown stadium would usher in a new wave of gentrification, like it has in so many other cities with similar recent projects,” the organization said in a statement before the event.

Greg Echlin
KCUR 89.3
Officials from the Kansas City Royals, including Chairman and CEO John Sherman, answer questions at a Dec. 14 community listening session about the team's intentions to leave the Truman Sports Complex and build a downtown baseball stadium.

The Royals directly addressed the potential of displacement of residences and businesses often through the night by saying that it’s not their intention to do so.

“They said ‘affordable housing’ 22 times when I was counting,” Ashley Johnson of KC Tenants said at an informal meeting outside Plexpod afterward. Johnson said she wanted the Royals to be more clear on how they defined “affordable.”

Royals Chief Operating Officer Brooks Sherman (no relation to the Royals’ chairman), said there are 14 sites under consideration, but didn’t disclose a timetable on narrowing it down to a final site.

“There’s evaluations that are continuing on land that we believe might be the best location for the stadium,” said Brooks Sherman.

The Royals are also hoping to develop a “ballpark district” that will surround the stadium.

John Sherman ruled out some sort of a bi-state tax to fund the construction of a downtown baseball complex because “it’s too complicated.”

He reiterated his original message that the funding will be a public-private partnership and Jackson County residents will not pay any more in taxes than they are now for Kauffman Stadium, and said the team is serious about transparency.

"We are asking that we do this together and we ask you to hold us accountable to deliver benefits on your behalf as a result of making an investment in us," Sherman said.

Though this was billed as the team’s first community listening event, no dates for future sessions have been announced.

The 2023 baseball season will mark the 50-year anniversary of the first game played at Kauffman Stadium.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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