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Voters clobber KC stadium plan

Wednesday, Apr 3, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The referendum simply asked voters to weigh in on extending an existing three-eights of a cent sales tax by 40 years. Proponents were clobbered. AP

The future of the Royals and Chiefs in Kansas City was thrown into question Tuesday night when residents of Jackson County, Missouri, resoundingly voted down a sales tax measure that would have helped to fund a new downtown ballpark along with major renovations to Arrowhead Stadium.

Royals owner John Sherman and Chiefs president Mark Donovan acknowledged long before the final tally that the initiative would fail. More than 58% of voters ultimately rejected the plan, which would have replaced an existing three-eighths of a cent sales tax that has been paying for the upkeep of Truman Sports Complex — the home for more than 50 years to Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums — with a similar tax that would have been in place for the next 40 years.

The Royals, who had pledged at least $1 billion from ownership for their project, wanted to use their share of the tax revenue to help fund a $2 billion-plus ballpark district. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs, who had committed $300 million in private money, would have used their share as part of an $800 million overhaul of Arrowhead Stadium. […]

The tax — or, more accurately, the stadium plans — received significant public pushback almost from the start, when the teams struggled to put concrete plans before voters and were accused of lacking transparency throughout the process.

* Fox

The Royals sought to use their share of the tax revenue to help fund a $2 billion-plus ballpark district. The team had pledged $1 billion from ownership.

The Chiefs sought to use their share of the tax revenue to help fund $800 million in renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. Ownership committed $300 million to the plan.

* Kansas City Star sports columnist Sam McDowell

In the coming days, weeks and perhaps even months, you’ll hear that Jackson County rebuffed downtown baseball, or rebuffed the Chiefs’ and Royals’ respective futures within the county’s boundaries.

Don’t buy it.

The voters of Jackson County did not reject simply the concept of sending taxes to billionaires to fund shiny new objects. This is not a cozy fit into a national narrative. They rejected a haphazard, moving target of a campaign that asked voters to trust what would come after the vote rather than what had come before it.

In fact, this mess of a campaign, the Royals’ 16-month crusade for a sweeping change in particular, could be defined in two words: Trust us.

Sounds kinda like Bring Chicago Home.

* Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas

Maybe the Sox and Bears should pay attention to both messages from voters.


  1. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:25 am:

    The Bears would be wise not to tie their proposal to the White Sox.

  2. - Henry Francis - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:25 am:

    And keep in mind the Chiefs are back to back champions, with a superstar QB and a TE dating a superstar, and the fans still said no. The bears can’t come close to that sort of panache.

  3. - Mark D - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:27 am:

    The Chiefs have won 3 Super Bowls in the last 5 years. The Bears last won almost 40 years ago, yet the billion-heir McCaskey family still has the nerve to ask for a handout. Incredible.

  4. - Sox Fan - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:36 am:

    It’s not the bears or the Sox I’m worried about paying attention. They’d be negligent if they didn’t ask for public assistance. It’s the mayor and the other pols. At least the governor seems to recognize stadium financing might be a loser

  5. - ItsMillerTime - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:39 am:

    KCC pulling a similar stunt to what the Bears and Sox are doing just further justifies why I stopped showing loyalty to professional sports teams. Doesn’t matter if they are a winning dynasty or perpetual losers, they don’t care a fig about their fans. Don’t give them what they want and they start threatening to leave even when they have multigenerational history of a loyal fans and year after year of profits.

    If you enjoy watching then by all means do it, but don’t view it anymore as a transaction because to them fan loyalty is a one way street. They will abandon you and your city in a heartbeat if they think they can make more money somewhere else.

  6. - TJ - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:49 am:

    The funny thing is that there were desperation mailers being sent out that attempted to latch opposition to the measure as being a move by the “radical left,” and also falsely claiming that it would involve no new taxes.

  7. - SammyG - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:51 am:

    At the very least, any stadium funding plan should include a ban on Ticketmaster’s ridiculous fees at any event held in a state-funded facility.

  8. - Tom S. - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 11:52 am:

    Well, Jerry Reinsdorf has already stocked his roster, front office, and coaching staff with former Royals…seems like they’re sharing scattered-shot stadium development strategies, too.

    I’ve been following the Royals proposal because I have friends in KC and enjoy that stadium. Was shocked to learn it was on the ballot because they were announcing what seemed like pretty significant changes to the plan right up to a couple of weeks ago.

  9. - Anyone Remember - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 12:06 pm:

    A step towards fiscal sanity. However, sobered by the memory Springfield / Sangamon County voters disapproved the Convention Center (twice, according to popular lore), yet it still happened.

    Depending upon state constitutions & laws, look for “Metro” governments created expressly to run stadiums / arenas … that have already been authorized without voter input.

    Curious how this will impact what is going on in Salt Lake City.

  10. - Homebody - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 12:07 pm:

    Per Forbes, the average value of an NFL team increased by 435% in the last decade. They can pay for their own stadiums.

  11. - Larry Bowa Jr. - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 12:21 pm:

    “They will abandon you and your city in a heartbeat if they think they can make more money somewhere else.”

    This is true but the flip side is that we are starting to see the same response everywhere there is democracy involved in the process. The billionaires are running out of marks, although people like Dave Cartwright are trying their hardest to get their pockets picked by the already wealthy.
    If I were a politician I’d at least want to tell fans I got a 30 year ticket price freeze, something that’s actually tangible in exchange for the public tax giveaway. Because at this point anyone with half a brain has seen that the real game is not football or baseball but billionaires using public money to rake privately held profits.

  12. - Jocko - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 12:36 pm:

    Fans are getting wise to team loyalty being a one-way street.

    Heaven forbid the Royals and Chiefs suggest a Private Activity Bond when they can have it constructed for free.

  13. - EP1082 - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 12:44 pm:

    When one of our tenants asks us to contribute money to improve the property they lease from us we ask them to provide audited financials. Need to know if they really need it and if it’s a good investment. That should be required and available for the public to view when companies are looking for taxpayers to contribute money. I would really like to see that from the Bears and Sox.

  14. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:04 pm:

    Either team would be smart to relocate to Mexico City.

    Azteca Stadium seats 87K and is owned by Televisa. I am sure they would be happy to add a baseball stadium.

  15. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:05 pm:

    –should pay attention to both messages from voters.–

    Yes, the message they heard is;

    “Skip having a vote, and try to find an administrative process to get the same result in a way which is more obfuscated to the public.”

    It’s how some local boards have decided to spend money on the things they want, when the voters reject it at the ballot box.

    The school district did an end around on the process of a building referendum during an election, after the referendum failed. They moved some paperwork on the administration side and moved money around in the budget to then fully fund construction of a new school nobody wanted without a vote.

    The local library, after getting trounced on a $32M referendum for a single building which included none of the branch locations the public was asking for, then this year took the same administrative path to avoid voters, and green-lit a $11M bond-funded expansion on a single building - which still doesn’t include the branch locations the public has been asking for. All without a referendum vote.

    So yes. I’m sure they heard the message. That message is just “Find a way to ignore the voters but still get their money”.

  16. - The Magnificent Purple Walnut - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:09 pm:

    At this time, I believe all but 3 of MLB stadiums are at least partially financed. All but 2 of NFL stadiums. Owners of professional sports teams will continue to try to get the taxpayer to foot at least some, if not all the cost of a stadium for as long as they can get away with it. They are businesses. They want to make as much profit as possible. As long as politicians let them, they will keep trying.

  17. - workingfromhome - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:10 pm:

    In the end, it’s just business. Every business owner everywhere since the beginning of time from the smallest lemonade stand to the largest multi-gazillion dollar enterprise strives for one thing: to spend the *least amount of their *own money in order to make the *most money for *themselves.

  18. - GoneFishing - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:42 pm:

    Not saying it’s right or wrong but as noted all businesses do this. They threaten to leave their current location and go somewhere where the local government will pay for all kinds of improvements and handouts. This is the bigger problem. Rivan got 1.5 billion in Georgia. Ended up changing their mind.,end%20of%202030%20through%202049.

  19. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:43 pm:

    Why don’t the owners tack a “new stadium” surcharge on ticket and food purchases? Let’s see how that works out for them. The argument that they bring in millions to the local economy is not limited to their team alone. The Chicago Sports market is something that we ought to be asking the team owners to buy into in order to get access to our fans and their money, not the other way around.

  20. - Hannibal Lecter - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 1:52 pm:

    Considering the performance of these two sports franchises, I would prefer it if they left Illinois altogether.

  21. - Friendly Bob Adams - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 2:00 pm:

    The KC “ballpark district” proposal is a duplicate of the Sox area 78 proposal: zero parking, no tailgating, everything on their terms not yours.

    So instead of eating your own food and drinking your own beer before the game, you pay ballpark prices for their food and drink.

    Not sure why this bugs me so much…

  22. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 2:21 pm:

    =Per Forbes, the average value of an NFL team increased by 435% in the last decade. They can pay for their own stadiums.=

    This plus the idea of paying full price to go see a game in a stadium that I helped pay for (even if my contribution is miniscule) while the billionaire owner reaps all the profit is pretty repugnant these days

    =The school district did an end around on the process of a building referendum during an election, after the referendum failed. They moved some paperwork on the administration side and moved money around in the budget to then fully fund construction of a new school nobody wanted without a vote.=

    With respect, new construction does not happen that way. It must be approved by a referendum even if it is not financed by bonds unless the funding used is generated through the 1% CSFST revenue. They can issue Health/Life Safety Bonds without a referendum (unless 10% of the registered voters sign a petition to require a referendum) but they would still need a referendum passed to build a new building which tells me there is a little more to what happened. You may want to check with your ROE if you don’t trust your school board. The ROE issues building permits and approves the use of HLS funds (so does the ISBE).

  23. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 2:23 pm:

    Friendly Bob Adams, if I can’t swing by the Brooklyn Ave. Arthur Bryant’s on the way to the game for a beef bbq sandwich to go and then eat it while parked for free on a dead-end “street” behind the hotel across the interstate from Kauffman, then it’s not an authentic KC Royals experience.

  24. - FormerParatrooper - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 2:48 pm:

    Michelle, you made me crave burnt ends from Arthur’s. Arthur Bryants was the bbq I grew up on.

    For the Chiefs, and as a fan since birth even in the bad years between Dawson and Mahomes, I would have voted no if I was still there.
    There is a reason why the KC fanatic was robbing banks, tickets cost too much. No, I don’t condone robbery, even if it pays to see the game.

  25. - yinn - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 4:09 pm:

    ==It must be approved by a referendum even if it is not financed by bonds unless the funding used is generated through the 1% CSFST revenue.==

    JS Mill, thanks for the tips about CSFST and ROE involvement.

    Our school district is so referendum-averse they are ignoring a nice piece of land donated for a new elementary school in favor of a rent-to-own scheme.

    The “work-around” is to use the state’s exception that allows a district to renovate a building they are leasing without voter approval for construction costs. The district has leased an obsolete building with an option to buy. The result will be a $32 million building that is 1/3 renovation and 2/3 new construction.

    Sorry about going off-topic. To the post: I am glad to see this result, especially in view of the sense of entitlement suggested by the failure to properly plan. I also agree with other commenters that business can’t be blamed for trying, but our electeds sure can.

  26. - JS Milll - Wednesday, Apr 3, 24 @ 6:40 pm:

    @Yinn- I was speaking to new construction specifically, but what you describe is definitely a work around and I think something we will see more of. If that is happening where you are at and you disagree with it you should definitely run for the school board or encourage other elite minded people to do so. It is wrong.

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