Voters reject stadium tax for Royals and Chiefs, leaving future in KC in question


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — 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.

“We’re deeply disappointed as we are steadfast in our belief that Jackson County is better with the Chiefs and the Royals,” said Sherman, who left without taking questions. “As someone whose roots run deep in this town, who has been a dedicated fan and season-ticket holder for both of these teams, and now leading a remarkable ownership group.”

Donovan said the Chiefs would do “what is in the best interest of our fans and our organization as we move forward.”

That could mean many things: The Chiefs could try again with a reworked plan more agreeable to voters, change their entire funding approach to include more private investment, or they could even listen to offers from competing cities and states — such as Kansas, just across the state line to the west — that would provide the public funding they desire.

“We’ve been talking a lot about the democratic process. We respect the process,” Donovan said. “We feel we put forth the best offer for Jackson County. We’re ready to extend the longstanding partnership the teams have enjoyed with this county.”

The current lease lease at Truman Sports Complex lasts through Jan. 31, 2031. And while Sherman has said the Royals would not play at Kauffman Stadium beyond the 2030 season, the Chiefs are hopeful of remaining at 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.

Last fall, the Royals unveiled two potential locations for their ballpark district, one on the eastern edge of downtown and the other across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. But a self-imposed deadline to finalize their location lapsed without a plan, and in February, they finally announced they had scrapped both concepts and chosen a different downtown spot.

The new area, known as the Crossroads, has a vibrant arts and restaurant scene, and it is just blocks away from the T-Mobile Center and the bustling Power & Light entertainment district. It also is close to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the 18th & Vine district, which is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

But even then, plans remained vague. The latest ballpark renderings were made obsolete just last week when the Royals acquiesced to Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas’ request that a major street that would have been part of the stadium footprint remain open; Lucas did not endorse the tax initiative until the Royals agreed to the change.

“I think everyone has the same mixed feelings,” said Deidre Chasteen, a voter from Independence, Missouri, who remembers attending games downtown at old Municipal Stadium when the Royals played there from 1969-72.

“It’s not that we mind paying the three-eighths-cent sales tax. I think the problem is putting the stadium where it is,” Chasteen said. “We’re saying don’t ruin businesses that have been established down there for years.”

The club also had not reached sales agreements with many landowners in the Crossroads, and other businesses had expressed concerns about traffic, congestion and parking in an already thriving residential neighborhood.

Sarah Tourville, the Royals’ executive vice president, said the goal was to move into the stadium for opening day in 2028.

The Royals moved from Municipal Stadium to Kauffman Stadium in 1973 and extensively renovated the ballpark from 2009-12. Arrowhead Stadium was built alongside Kauffman Stadium and also was renovated around the same time.

While the Royals insist on playing in a new ballpark, the Chiefs wanted to stay put with a renovation that would have touched every aspect of their 52-year-old building, from the seating bowl to luxury amenities to the tailgating scene.

“We would not be willing to sign a lease for another 25 years without the financing to properly renovate and reimagine the stadium,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, whose father, Lamar Hunt, helped get the existing stadiums built, said before Tuesday’s vote. “The financing puzzle is very important to us to make sure we have enough funds to do everything we’ve outlined.”

The Chiefs had hoped their success, including three Super Bowl titles in the last five years, would sway voters in their favor.

“What my dad loved best about the stadium was the connection the team had with our fanbase,” Hunt said. “He loved this building for what it means to the fans, and we still believe it is one of the best stadiums in the National Football League and a bucket-list destination for fans across the NFL.”


Associated Press writer Nick Ingram contributed to this report.




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