Published December 5th, 2023 at 12:30 PM2 minute read
By Kevin Collison
Alarmed that the glacial pace of pro sports negotiations may prompt the Chiefs to pursue a suburban Kansas option, Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca is hosting a community meeting next week to heat things up.
“As chair of the budget committee, if no one is going to do this, the one member of the legislature who represents Kansas City should be doing this,” Abarca said.
“Public pressure is needed to move this from dead center. We need to move from the position of not negotiating at all.”
Abarca has scheduled a community town hall next Tuesday (Dec. 12) at 5:30 p.m. at the Fowling Warehouse Kansas City, a sports bar at 1020 W. 103rd St., to “discuss the future of the two Jackson County professional sports teams.”
The legislator said he won’t be able to reveal details disclosed in closed session at County Hall about negotiations, but wants to clear up some misconceptions and emphasize the urgency of the situation.
The Chiefs want to know if a deal for extending the 3/8ths cent county sales tax will be reached in time for the April 8 ballot. Without that assurance, the team likely will turn to the Village West area in Kansas where Sporting KC and the Kansas Speedway are located.
“I’ve heard directly from Chiefs leadership about what they want, they want the 3/8th cent tax renewed and have it on the April ballot,” Abarca said.
“The rest of it is negotiations. They do want the Royals out and if they don’t get it on the April ballot they’re strongly considering a Kansas options.”
The deadline for Jackson County to have a ballot initiative ready for April is late January.
Abarca said his impression is that County Executive Frank White and his staff have not been pushing to get a deal done.
“I still believe that as of last week, there’d been no new effort extended from the county executive’s office,” he said.
Abarca has been increasingly vocal about his worries that Jackson County may lose one or both of the pro teams now playing at the Truman Sports Complex. He aired his concerns last week in an interview on the KCUR Up to Date program.
Another big factor looming over the local talks is what’s expected to be major subsidy requests from either Missouri, to keep the teams, particularly the Chiefs, or Kansas to help build what would be at least a $2 billion football stadium.
Those state asks are expected to be hundreds of millions of dollars and would be triggered by whether the county is successful getting the 3/8th cent sales tax extension on the ballot and winning voter approval.
Abarca said one misconception he wants to clarify is over the 3/8th cent county sales tax extension. He said all of the money would go toward paying for the potential stadium and ballpark deals and none to Jackson County.
“There’s is some misunderstanding as to what a good deal is or what a bad deal is,” he said. “I think the public knows about the (3/8th cent sales) tax, but doesn’t know what it’s for…Jackson county receives no revenues.”
The county legislator also said there’s no option to maintain the status quo at the Truman Sports Complex. The Royals have made it clear they need a new ballpark and the Chiefs want to redevelop the Kaufmann Field site as an entertainment district.
“The reality of the situation requires the Royals to relocate to allow the Chiefs to stay,” he said.
As for where the Royals would like to go, Abarca said the East Village option is the focus, but North Kansas City, which is in Clay County, remains in the hunt.
He confirmed there has been some recent interest in a South Loop site where the vacant former production facility of The Kansas City Star is located at 17th and McGee. There’s also been speculation the Royals could go to the Village West area.
Abarca doesn’t support that South Loop location however, because it likely would require the dislocation of many already thriving businesses in the East Crossroads.