Royals, Chiefs commit to Jackson County if sales tax approved

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs released a joint statement Friday to stay in Jackson County, pending voters’ approval of a sales tax extension.

The statement comes amid the Royals’ plans to build a new $2 billion ballpark district as they look at locations in both Jackson County and Clay County.

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The teams said Friday they are committed to staying in Jackson County — and provide over $200 million in economic benefits — if voters approve a 40-year extension of the 3/8th-cent sales tax in April.

The sales tax extension will help the Chiefs renovate Arrowhead Stadium at the Truman Sports Complex and assist with the Royals’ new stadium in downtown Kansas City.

Included in those $200 million in economic benefits, the teams said they are willing to pay for insurance coverages that are currently paid for by the county. It would save the county $80-100 million over the course of the leases.

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The teams would also reallocate their park property tax to save the county $140 million over the course of their leases to be used for other county purposes.

The Chiefs and Royals also stated that they are committed to a “robust” community benefits agreement, something that Kansas City-area union leaders have been calling for since stadium talks began.

“The partnership between Jackson County, the Chiefs and Royals has been a tremendous success over the past 50 years, and directly responsible for much of the great momentum our hometown has built,” the teams said in Friday’s statement.

“The framework described here is a significant financial benefit for Jackson County, collaboratively built around concerns expressed by the County Executive and other local leaders, and provides a further boost to Kansas City and the region for decades to come.”

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Royals officials have said Kauffman Stadium is no longer a viable option as the home ballpark of the franchise because of stadium repair costs.

The Royals have previously said they narrowed their decision down to two locations: a location in East Village and a location in North Kansas City.

The East Village (Jackson County) site is located near 12th and Cherry streets. The NKC (Clay County) site is between 9 Highway and I-35, just south of the businesses on Armour Road.

But owners of the former Kansas City Star building at 16th and Oak streets are also still pushing to get the Royals to move to the Crossroads instead.

Clay County Commissioner Jason Withington posted Friday to social media that the Royals told North Kansas City and his county they’ve “put all the chips in on the KC Star building.”

Withington said Clay County was not willing to give the team a 1% sales tax — higher than Jackson County’s proposed tax due to the smaller population — for a 40-year term.

What’s next?

Jackson County leaders have until Jan. 23 to get the initiative on the voting ballot.

Legislature Chairman DaRon McGee proposed a stadium tax ordinance for the legislature to vote on, but it has been delayed for the past two meetings.

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Even if the legislature votes for the ordinance, County Executive Frank White could veto it. The county’s top leader said Friday nothing has been finalized, and he “will not, rush into any agreement.”

White has 10 days to veto something the legislature passes. Then legislators would need a supermajority to override White.

Local leaders have voiced concern the Royals could leave the Kansas City area completely and the Chiefs could move to Kansas if voters don’t approve a sales tax extension.

The next legislative meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.

Local leaders react

White released the following statement after the teams’ announcement:

“As Jackson County Executive, I want to make sure the community knows where I stand on the current status of our discussions with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. It is important for the community to understand that while discussions are ongoing, no agreement has been finalized with either team.

“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. The well-being of Jackson County and its residents is my foremost priority. We are mindful that we have weeks until the April ballot deadline. But we also have seven years remaining on our current leases with both teams, providing us a valuable window to thoroughly evaluate all proposals.

“My commitment is to transparency, diligence and fairness throughout this process. Every step taken will be in pursuit of a fair and equitable agreement that upholds the financial stability and future prosperity of our county. I will not support any ballot issue until we have reached an agreement that aligns with the best interests of Jackson County and our residents.

“It is crucial that any agreement includes equitable terms, a robust community benefits agreement and the collective voice of our community. As your County Executive, I assure you that I will continue to work diligently toward an agreement that honors our county’s legacy with the Chiefs and Royals while securing a future that is beneficial and equitable for all.

“Our commitment today to careful, thoughtful decision-making will ensure a legacy of prosperity and well-being for generations to come in Jackson County. Let’s continue to work together, with patience and foresight, toward a future we can all be proud of.”

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Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte spoke with FOX4 Friday evening on his reaction.

“Well, we certainly would have preferred Clay County but we are absolutely thrilled we are keeping the Royals here in the Kansas City area,” he said.

Nolte added “the Royals were nothing but professional and wonderful to deal with and we appreciate the opportunity.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas issued the following statement:

“Retaining the Chiefs and the Royals and the events hosted at the teams’ facilities like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift and global sporting events like the MLB All-Star Game and the World Cup is a priority for Kansas City — at a fair value for our taxpayers.

“The Chiefs, the Royals, County Executive White, and the County Legislature have made great strides in their efforts to ensure voters have a fair deal to evaluate on the April 2024 ballot.  I thank all parties for their efforts to secure a good deal for Jackson County and Kansas City taxpayers, and it is worthy of presentment to the voters, so that they may make their voices heard this April.”

Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca released the following statement Friday:

“I am glad to see a joint statement from the Chiefs and Royals with clear concessions of a ‘better deal’ and glad to see them clearly state their commitment to a CBA. It sounds familiar and glad to see we have an opportunity to press for more outcomes and broader community benefits, beyond workers’ rights.”

Abarca spoke with FOX4 Friday evening on which site he prefers for a new Royals stadium.

“Ideally, I think the East Village becomes a lot easier. There are less people centralized there right now, more parking lots. I think as you go to the Crossroads it becomes a lot harder to figure out: what do you do with the organic businesses that are there and become a culture and community themselves,” he said.

Abarca also spoke about if he thinks voters will approve the ballot measure in April.

“People want to know more information. I think the majority of folks who came [to Thursday’s meeting] and said, ‘No action until a CBA.’ They didn’t say, ‘No stadium.’ They said, ‘No action’.” If you’re displacing businesses at a Crossroads village, that could be a component of the CBA. That needs to be figured out before an April ballot,” he said.

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FOX4 is also reaching out to other Clay County legislators to get their reaction.

This is a breaking story. FOX4 will update as we hear from more local leaders.

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