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Royals change stadium plan to keep Oak Street open to traffic, but fate of businesses is uncertain

A collection of brick buildings line a street. On the left hand side of the street is a cycle track and parking spaces.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The Royals said they will alter their ballpark plan to keep Oak Street open to traffic. The team plans to continue with their development plans for that part of the stadium district — including a hotel, entertainment venue, and corporate offices. With Oak Street staying open, the fate of the pictured small businesses in the footprint remains uncertain.

The Royals' original plan was to place the team’s corporate offices and entertainment venues on Oak Street, which would close the main thoroughfare and demolish buildings that house about 10 businesses. The Royals intend to continue with that district development but will alter plans to keep Oak Street open. The Royals and the Chiefs also announced new stadium leases on Wednesday.

The Royals announced the team is reworking its proposed Crossroads ballpark district to keep Oak Street open after pressure from Mayor Quinton Lucas, other city officials and the Crossroads community.

The original stadium district design stretched east to west between Locust Street and Grand Boulevard and north to south from Truman Road to 17th Street.

In a statement, team owner John Sherman said the team made the decision in response to Lucas’ advocacy and conversations with city council to keep the thoroughfare open and “improve the ballpark district impact.”

“We acknowledge Oak Street is an integral part of the downtown experience, and therefore we agree to change the ballpark district design to keep Oak Street open,” Sherman said.

In a separate statement to KCUR, the Royals said the team wants to keep Oak Street open to pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

“We have said all along that we are meeting with and listening to members of the Crossroads community, and this is an example of that work,” the team said. “We have always viewed our project as connecting downtown neighborhoods, and keeping this important artery open is consistent with that priority.”

The proposed site map for the Royals stadium in the Crossroads.
The original proposed site map for the Royals stadium in the Crossroads. The Royals said Wednesday that they plan to move forward with the development on the eastern edge of the site — including a hotel, entertainment venue and the team's corporate office — but will shift it to keep Oak Street open.

The original plan placed part of the stadium, the team’s corporate office, a hotel, and residential and entertainment venues along the Oak and Locust Street corridor.

A spokesperson for the team said the Royals will still move forward with the surrounding development but will alter the design to keep Oak Street open. He did not specify whether that still includes demolishing surrounding businesses.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Royal President of Business Operation, Brooks Sherman, said that the Royals would commit to keeping Oak Street open to car, bike and pedestrian traffic.

Royals and Chiefs leadership also announced Wednesday that they have finalized new stadium lease agreements with the Jackson County Sports Authority.

Both leases are contingent on voters extending an existing 3/8th-cent stadium sales tax on April 2.

Under the new agreements, the Royals would operate in a new downtown stadium for 40 years, paying $2.75 million each year beginning with the facility’s projected completion date of 2028. The team’s agreement also includes two optional five-year extensions.

The Chiefs would agree to stay at Arrowhead Stadium for 25 years at $1.1 million per year, with three optional five-year extensions.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Royals President of Business Operations Brooks Sherman and Chiefs President Mark Donovan jointly said that the agreements would make the teams financially responsible for the demolition of Kauffman Stadium.

The Crossroads Community Association is currently negotiatingwith the team for a community benefits agreement that would reduce lease pricing within the ballpark district, provide support to displaced businesses and implement traffic and parking management. No deal has been signed yet.

David Johnson, a board member for the association, said he supports the Royals’ latest decision. The CCA remains neutral on the April 2 vote to extend Jackson County’s existing 3/8th-cent sales tax to support the Royals’ new stadium and Chiefs’ renovation at Arrowhead.

“Oak provides critical access for all road users to destinations to the north and south, as well as access to many emerging small businesses located on the street itself,” Johnson said.

Jill Cockson owns Chartreuse Saloon on the corner of Oak and 17th Street and has been a vocal opponent of the Crossroads ballpark. She said the plan to keep Oak Street open gives her hope for her business.

However, Cockson said she’s still encouraging people to vote against the 3/8th-cent sales tax extension because the team changed its plan less than a week before the April 2 election, after voting has already begun.

“I think that the voters need to take this as a sign that they don't know what they're doing,” Cockson said. “They should go back to the drawing board and come back to the table with a plan that they actually communicate effectively in advance so that we can all know exactly what we're voting on.”

Sarah Hoffmann owns Green Dirt Farm, a Weston artisan cheesemaker that’s set to open its Kansas City location on Oak and 16th Street in a matter of days.

Signs in Green Dirt on Oak’s windows encourage people to vote against the 3/8th-cent sales tax. Hoffmann said the new plan doesn’t change her mind. She says the tax money would be put to better use expanding housing, mitigating climate impacts and investing in public infrastructure.

A blue and red sign behind a window pane reads "Vote No on Royals Stadium in the Crossroads Art District, and Protect Small Businesses.
Carlos Moreno
A sign in a store front near the intersection of 16th and Oak Streets on March 25, 2024 urges Jackson County residents to vote against a 3/8th-cent stadium tax.

Even if their businesses remain open, both Hoffmann and Cockson are concerned about the parking and construction issues the stadium could cause.

“How will that impact our customer's desire to come down here? Are they going to say to themselves, ‘It's too busy and too crowded, there's not parking and all that construction is getting in the way — I don't even want to go down there right now’?” Hoffman said. “It can have a really big negative impact on our business.”

The Royals said the team will continue to factor community feedback into the design of the ballpark district.

“After the vote, we will continue this collaborative and thoughtful process with the Mayor, City Council and Crossroads small businesses on integrating the ballpark district and neighborhood,” the team said in a statement to KCUR.

When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
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