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Kansas City Royals propose a Crossroads stadium that would demolish several blocks

A rendering shows what a new Kansas City Royals ballpark might look like in the Crossroads Arts District.
Kansas City Royals
A rendering shows what a new Kansas City Royals ballpark might look like in the Crossroads Arts District.

The Royals' announcement answers a key question as Jackson County residents prepare to vote on whether to renew a crucial stadium sales tax. Their new stadium would replace the former Star printing press, but it would also take over blocks currently occupied by small businesses.

The Kansas City Royals will build the team’s new baseball stadium in the Crossroads district, team owners announced Tuesday.

The long-awaited reveal follows months of speculation, rumors, unanswered questions and political squabbles over the future of the Royals in Jackson County. It also comes about five months after the team’s original September deadline to choose a ballpark location.

The new stadium will take the place of the former Kansas City Star printing press, which covers the block from Truman Road to 17th Street and McGee Street to Oak Street.

The proposed site map for the Royals stadium in the Crossroads.
The proposed site map for the Royals stadium in the Crossroads.

The Royals’ plans include a baseball stadium, team offices, a hotel, a residential and entertainment venue, improvements to Grand Boulevard and a bridge connecting the stadium to the planned $200 million South Loop Link project.

The 18-acre development spans from Grand Boulevard east to Locust Street, and Truman Road south to 17th Street. The stadium will have the capacity for an estimated 34,000 people, Royals officials said.

“I believe, in my gut, the timing is right for the Royals to become residents of the Crossroads and neighbors to Power and Light 18th and Vine and Hospital Hill, helping to further connect the cultural center of our great city,” said Royals CEO John Sherman.

The Royals said the entire development will require a $2 billion investment, which the team says is the largest public-private partnership in Jackson County. The Royals say they will invest $1 billion of private funds into the project.

The Crossroads location was not on the team’s shortlist of ballpark locations last fall. At that time, the Royals were choosing between a new stadium in downtown Kansas City’s East Village or in North Kansas City. The team decided to revisit a possible Crossroads site in November.

The Jackson County Legislature last month approved an April 2 ballot question asking whether to renew the 3/8th-cent sales tax that funds the Chiefs and Royals stadiums for an additional 40 years. That revenue will be split equally between the teams.

Both teams have said that tax is crucial to keep them in Jackson County.

Jackson County Executive Frank White said Tuesday that the Royals, public officials and stakeholders need to work together to inform the public.

“The voters of Jackson County are owed a complete accounting of the economic impacts, the financial commitments required from them and how this stadium will benefit the community at large,” he said in a statement.

The Royals say they hope to open the stadium to fans by 2028.

The Royals' proposed new downtown baseball stadium would occupy the space currently
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
The Royals' proposed new downtown baseball stadium would occupy the space where the abandoned Kansas City Star printing press is.

A sports stadium in an arts district

The Royals’ decision places a sports stadium in the middle of a popular arts district known for its locally-owned breweries, bars, coffee shops and its monthly First Fridays events.

Crossroads Community Association member David Johnson said businesses are anxious.

“These are people we know — they're entrepreneurs and small businesses that have worked hard to renovate dilapidated spaces into something that makes the Crossroads a unique mixed use community that is focused on creative uses and the visual arts in particular,” Johnson said.

Brooks Sherman, president of business operations for the Royals, said the team is already talking with property owners whose buildings would be demolished by the development.

John Pryor, who owns the leather goods store Madison Stitch, about a block away from the proposed site, thinks the baseball park would fit better in the East Village.

"I don't wanna see an Applebee's in here," Pryor said. "I wanna see unusual James Beard Award-winning, artisan, chef-driven, craft-driven, artist-driven businesses that contribute to the incredible dynamism and vitality here in the neighborhood."

At least one business owner told KCUR they want people to vote against the April sales tax extension in order to protect the East Crossroads.

But the Royals owners say the Crossroads location is ideal given its proximity to existing entertainment districts.

A stadium along McGee Street would connect to the Crossroads, Power and Light and the South Loop Link project to build an urban park atop the downtown loop. It would be essentially across the road from the T-Mobile Center.

Royals officials added that the Crossroads location will not require any new parking structures to be built, as existing parking downtown can accommodate fans who drive to games.

“The beauty of the Crossroads sites is that we can park all 9,000 people that we need to park, all 9,000 cars, with existing lots," says Earl Santee, who works for the firm designing the stadium. "We're not building new parking for this 9,000.”

The team also said the Crossroads site will not require any major transportation improvements — the neighborhood has access to the KC Streetcar and is well served by Kansas City's bus system.

Kansas City Councilmember Eric Bunch represents the district that will house the Royals’ new ballpark. He said he still has some questions, like how much the city will be asked to invest into the project and how it will impact small businesses in the Crossroads.

“What is going to happen with, not only the individual businesses there, but the culture that has been created in the East Crossroads?” Bunch said. “There are businesses there, and I think it deserves a lot of consideration to figure out a way to keep those businesses going and find new locations for them.”

Both teams have signed a letter of intent that outlines the teams’ broad plans for their future in the county. But neither has signed a legally binding lease or development agreement — which some Jackson County officials, including County Executive Frank White, have criticized.

Kansas City activists are still waiting on the Royals to negotiate a community benefits agreement, a contract that would guarantee affordable housing, and ensure union jobs and livable wages for stadium and entertainment district workers.

Kaamilya Hobbs, a member of Stand Up KC, hopes that the process can begin now.

"We are the ones that know what's best for sure when it comes to what we need for our community," Hobbs said. "And I'm hoping that they'll agree and want to take the time to truly listen to us."

Gina Chiala, a lawyer for the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom, said that voters shouldn’t approve the stadium sales tax extension in April unless there’s a CBA in place.

"If the Royals show a good faith effort and openness toward our demands and a path to negotiate a robust agreement, we will continue to engage," Chiala said.

A Royals spokesperson said they are working “diligently” to finalize a deal, and the team has meetings scheduled in the coming weeks.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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