What to know about the stadium tax ballot measure

Go out and vote!

On Tuesday, April 2, Jackson County voters will decide whether to extend a 3/8 cent sales tax that is currently used to fund the 2006 renovations to the Truman Sports Complex for another 40 years, to fund improvements to Arrowhead and build a new downtown baseball stadium for the Royals. The campaigns on both sides have been intense with a flood of advertising slanted towards their respective viewpoints. I thought I’d try to provide a more objective guide on what voters should know about the April 2 ballot measure.

What does the ballot measure say?

The measure is known as “Question #1” and the official ballot language reads as follows:

Shall the County of Jackson repeal its countywide capital improvements sales tax of three-eighths of one percent (3/8%) authorized by Section 67.700 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri and impose as a parks sales tax of three eighths of one percent (3/8%) authorized by Section 644.032 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri for a period of 40 years, to provide funding for park improvements, consisting of (1) site preparation and clearance, developing, constructing, furnishing, improving, equipping, repairing, maintaining, and operating both Arrowhead Stadium and its surrounds, and a new baseball stadium and its surrounds, to retain the Kansas City Chiefs in Jackson County, Missouri and the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri pursuant to long term leases; and (2) refinancing debt obligations previously incurred to finance or refinance improvements to the Harry S Truman Sports Complex?

A yes vote would extend the 3/8 cent sales tax for 40 more years, while a no vote would allow the 3/8 cent sales tax to expire in 2031.

What do the Royals get out of this?

The Royals would build a new downtown baseball stadium and ballpark district in the north Crossroads, just across from T-Mobile Center where the Kansas City Star printing press currently resides with Truman Road to the north, 17th Street to the south, Grand on the west, and Locust on the east. The sales tax would contribute about $300-350 million towards a $1 billion stadium. The Royals have not said how the rest of the stadium would be funded, but there are reports they will ask the city and state for additional public funding. The Royals have pledged to pay the $1 billion costs of the entertainment district and cover any cost overruns.

The proposed development would occupy 17.3 acres and consist of a ballpark with just over 34,000 seats as well as a hotel, office space, residential apartments, and an entertainment venue. The district will integrate with the proposed park to cap I-670 and include a pedestrian walkway to T-Mobile Center. The development would not include a dedicated parking structure, and the Royals have argued there are currently 40,000 parking spots downtown.

What do the Chiefs get out of this?

The Chiefs have proposed $800 million of renovations for Arrowhead Stadium, of which they will contribute $300 million towards. The renovations will include a new video board, end zone suites and a covered fan zone where Kauffman Stadium currently sits.

What does Jackson County get out of this?

Jackson County would continue to keep the teams, including the tax revenues they generate. The Royals tout $1.2 billion in annual economic development once a new stadium is operational, but many economists doubt those figures. The Chiefs have not promised to keep their offices and training facility in the county, but have pledged to give the county the first opportunity if the team ever wanted new facilities.

The Chiefs and Royals did make certain concessions in negotiations, including agreeing to cover insurance costs for the stadiums and allocating their share of the park property tax to other county uses. The Royals have also come to terms on a Community Benefits Agreement with certain local groups that would provide annual payments of $3.5 million into a fund governed by a board the Royals can appoint 45 percent of members, that would distribute funds to “various nonprofit and charitable programs, initiatives, and objectives.” The Chiefs would contribute $2 million per year.

The Royals also reached agreement with Kansas City Public Schools on the loss of property tax revenue the district would suffer with the tax-abated property the stadium would sit on, but the county would lose property tax revenues for libraries and mental health services.

What happens if this passes?

The teams have already agreed to leases that would need to be approved by the Jackson County Legislature. The county would take out a loan to build the new stadium, with the sales tax used to pay down that debt. The teams have agreed to pay for the costs to demolish Kauffman Stadium.

The Royals still need to assemble the land needed for the ballpark, but recently came to terms with Resurrection, one of the larger occupants of the stadium site. The proposed stadium site is currently home to around 40 businesses. The Royals have pledged to assist displaced businesses but have not said what they will do if other property owners do not sell. The Royals also agreed not to close traffic to Oak Street, a sticking point for Mayor Quinton Lucas.

The Royals anticipate that if the measure passes, a new stadium would be ready by Opening Day of 2028.

What happens if this fails?

The Royals and Chiefs are bound to leases at the Truman Sports Complex through 2030, preventing relocation before then unless the new leases are approved that would permit the Royals to move downtown. Both teams have said they will “explore all options” if the vote fails. The Royals have made it clear they do not intend to stay at Kauffman Stadium past 2030, insisting the current stadium is in disrepair. They claim renovations would cost at least $1 billion, although some have questioned their claims that the stadium has “concrete cancer.”

Clay County leaders proposed bringing the team across the river, and if the vote fails, other jurisdictions in the metro, including those in Kansas, could also make a pitch. The teams could also try again in Jackson County with a different proposal. Some have argued that a future vote split the Royals and Chiefs apart with separate proposals.

Could the Royals relocate out of Kansas City entirely? It is difficult to predict what the landscape will look like in 2031, but MLB franchises are very slow to relocate. The last franchise to move – the Montreal Expos – took nearly a decade before they finally moved to Washington, DC in 2005. The Oakland Athletics have been trying to get a new stadium for well over a decade and still don’t have a relocation plan in place. Royals owner John Sherman is a local resident with an ownership group made up primarily of interests in the community, including Patrick Mahomes and Eric Stonestreet, making it unlikely the team would relocate entirely out of the metro area.

Who is supporting this measure and why?

Supporters tout the need to keep the teams in Jackson County and the economic benefits they provide. The teams have not explicitly threatened to relocate, but supporters have argued to prevent even the possibility of losing the teams.

The Royals have also argued that a new stadium has the potential to transform the urban core and bring thousands of fans to a revitalized downtown. They argue that a new ballpark district can provide the revenue streams the Royals will need to compete with other MLB clubs who already have downtown stadiums or their own ballpark districts.

The group campaigning for the ballot measure is the Committee to Keep the Chiefs and Royals in Jackson County. A number of local politicians are supporting the measure including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, and county legislators Manny Abarca IV, Donna Peyton, Venessa Huskey, and Charlie Franklin. Several groups are also endorsing the measure, including:

  • Business groups including the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Kansas City Area Development Council, Independence Chamber of Commerce, Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City
  • Unions and trade groups such as the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council, Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, Greater Kansas City Building & Construction Trades Council, Fraternal Order of Police, and SEIU Local 1
  • Community groups such as Freedom, Inc. Kansas City and the Urban League
  • Several Royals and Chiefs players have appeared in campaign ads in support including Salvador Perez, Bobby Witt Jr., Patrick Mahomes, and Travis Kelce

Royals Review writer Bradford Lee has written in support of the measure.

Who is opposing this measure and why?

Opponents have argued against using public tax dollars to subsidize wealthy sports teams and their owners, who already make millions of dollars. They also argue that the proposed stadium would displace existing businesses and raise rents and property taxes in the Crossroads. Some community groups have criticized the Community Benefits Agreement for being just for show with little substantive benefit. Others have criticized the lack of details in the plan, and the rushed timeline when there are still several years until the team leases expire.

Jackson County executive Frank White has been the leading voice opposing the measure, arguing the teams are pushing forward with some details yet to be worked out. The group opposed to the measure is the Committee Against New Royals Stadium Taxes, led by former City Councilwoman Becky Nace. Kansas City council member Jonathan Duncan has publicly stated opposition to the measure.

Progressive community groups opposing the measure include the Good Jobs Coalition, KC Tenants, and Sunrise Movement KC. The conservative free-market group Show-Me Institute has also criticized the proposal.

Royals Review writers Hokius and Matthew LaMar have also written in opposition to the measure.

What does the polling look like on this?

A poll conducted by Remington Research Group on March 16-17 found 47 percent of respondents would vote yes on the ballot measure, with 46 percent opposed.

When is the vote and who can vote on it?

Only registered voters of Jackson County can vote on this measure. This includes parts of Kansas City and other cities, although not all of Kansas City lies in Jackson County. Voters have already been absentee voting as early as February, but you can vote in person on Tuesday, April 2. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and you can find your voting location here.

Go to Source
Title: What to know about the stadium tax ballot measure
Author: Max Rieper

You May Also Like