Jackson County agency wants Chiefs and Royals to sign stadium funding deal
The document adopted by the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority represents a concrete action to keep the Chiefs and Royals in the city, after months of escalating rumors that they might jump ship to North Kansas City or Kansas. It has yet to be signed by either teams.
The Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, the entity that operates the Truman Sports Complex where Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums live, has adopted a letter of intent for the Chiefs and Royals to cement their commitment to remain in Kansas City.
The document comes amid months of often slow-moving negotiations with Jackson County officials, and uncertainty over a pivotal sales tax measure.
If the letter of intent is signed by the teams, it would provide more clarity on plans for a new baseball stadium, although the Royals still haven’t told taxpayers where they actually plan to build it, and ensure the Chiefs will continue to play at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Royals owners are still reportedly deciding between a ballpark in the East Crossroads, at the site of the former Kansas City Star building, or in the East Village.
What’s in it for Jackson County and the teams
This letter of intent comes soon after the Jackson County Legislature approved a ballot measure asking voters to renew the current 3/8ths cent stadium sales tax — proceeds of which are split between the Chiefs and Royals — for another 40 years.
Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca IV said the document paves the way to finalized leases with both teams.
“Within 10 days, I think it's incredibly difficult to have both individual teams, attorneys, groups, the sports authority, the county, county's representation, legislative interest and the executive interest all sorted out within that time frame,” he said, referring to the time since the legislature’s action. “I deem this as progress leading up to greater transparency.”
The legislature approved the sales tax measure by an 8-1 margin, with the intention of placing it on the April 2 ballot. However, Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. vetoedit on Thursday.
"It's not a good deal for taxpayers and I cannot support an agreement that is not in their best interest," White wrote in a statement.
The Jackson County Legislature needs six votes to override the veto. Four of the nine lawmakers have said they support White's decision.
Their next meeting is Monday, Jan. 22.
The future plans of the Chiefs and Royals hinge on the passage of that ballot measure.
According to the terms sheet document, revenue from the 3/8th-cent tax would continue to be split equally between the Royals and Chiefs. The document says the tax proceeds will be used to pay debt service on new bonds that will be issued to pay for the repair, management, maintenance and operations at the Truman Sports Complex.
The terms sheet addresses some outstanding demands from White, who has criticized and slowed down the stadium talks over concerns about how the stadiums will benefit taxpayers.
“As we navigate these crucial negotiations involving potential commitments of billions of taxpayer dollars, I want to make it abundantly clear: I have not, and will not, rush into any agreement,” White said earlier this month.
The document states that the Chiefs’ administrative offices and practice facilities would remain in Jackson County, and says demolition of Kauffman Stadium would be covered by revenue from the 3/8th-cent sales tax.
Once Kauffman Stadium is demolished, following the Royals’ departure, the Chiefs would take over the entire Truman Sports Complex, and expand and renovate Arrowhead Stadium.
The letter of intent would also affirm a concession from the Chiefs and Royals to forgo money from the Jackson County parks levy, once the new leases are executed. The parks levy provides $3.5 million annually to the Truman Sports Complex.
Both teams would also be responsible for their own insurance, another concession to Jackson County. The teams said in a statement earlier this month that these concessions will save county taxpayers between $80-$100 million.
Compared to the teams’ previous agreement back in 2006, Abarca said this new deal would demand less of a financial commitment from the county.
“So the term is longer, but we're getting more outcomes within that term,” Abarca said. “It's a greater benefit than what you would see if we were trying to recruit a team from somewhere else.”
The document also reflects a desire for Jackson County to seek revenue from the two stadiums through a new tax. Some stadiums do this by charging an additional tax on food and beverage purchases, or on ticket sales.
The document did not specify what kind of tax Jackson County would pursue or how much revenue would be generated.
Abarca said it’s White’s desire to find ways the county can receive a direct financial benefit from the teams.
“Jackson County is really a conduit where tax dollars go directly to the maintenance and investments of these teams,” Abarca said, referring to the 3/8ths-cent sales tax.
Both teams previously affirmed that they will work with Jackson County to negotiate a community benefits agreement, something that local lawmakers and workers rights groups have demanded.
Advocates want a deal with the Royals to guarantee a living wage for new stadium workers, union jobs, and affordable housing in the stadium district, wherever it’s located.
The Royals and Chiefs said they will each make “materially substantial” private contributions to their respective stadium projects. Both teams would be required to draw up budgets, and would be on the hook for any costs that exceed those budgets.
According to the terms sheet, the county’s new lease with the Chiefs would last for at least 25 years, and the Royals’ for 40 years.
The Royals’ new lease would start on March 1, 2028, provided that the stadium project is completed by then.