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Kansas Lawmakers Mount Drive to Lure Chiefs, Royals 'Jackson County Dropped the Ball'

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Above image credit: An aerial view of Truman Sports Complex, home of the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs. (G. Newman Lowrance | via Associated Press)
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3 minute read

TOPEKA — Kansas House and Senate members worked Monday to consider whether to approve an economic development package designed to attract the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals or professional hockey or basketball franchises to Kansas.

The legislation would specifically limit the state’s incentives to sports facility projects costing more than $1 billion and the state Department of Commerce would be authorized to negotiate and make offers to no more than two sports teams.

The bonds issued for the projects could be used for all costs associated with stadiums and other infrastructure and would be repayable over a 30-year period. The incentive packages would be available until June 2025, but the legislation would allow that deadline to be extended for one year.

“Sorry for the short notice,” said Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Stilwell Republican and chairman of the House Commerce Committee, told five other legislators on a negotiating committee. “I think it’s important to have this done before we adjourn the session. It’s just important to send a very positive message to the sports community that we’re here and we’re very serious about this.”

House and Senate lawmakers working on a proposed bill.
House and Senate lawmakers worked Monday on a proposed bill that would allow issuance of bonds to attract the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals or other professional sports franchises to Kansas. (Kansas Reflector screen capture of Legislature’s YouTube channel)

A bipartisan team of three negotiators from both the House and Senate were considering the proposal. The package, if it moves forward, would be amended into House Bill 2663. Majorities in the House and Senate would have to vote for the bill before it was sent to Gov. Laura Kelly.

“We see an incredible opportunity, and exciting opportunity, to put Kansas on the map along with states that have professional sports. However, there is a lot in this bill to be digested,” said Sen. Renee Erickson, a Wichita Republican and chair of the Senate’s commerce committee.

The 2024 Legislature is expected to wrap up the session, perhaps on Tuesday, but lawmakers could be called back for a special session if necessary.

In early April, voters in Jackson County, Missouri, rejected a sales tax measure that would have helped fund a downtown Kansas City stadium for the Royals and allow major renovations at Arrowhead Stadium used by the Chiefs. More than 58% of voters opposed the plan for replacing the 3/8-cent sales tax used to maintain Truman Sports Complex to accommodate investments in the two stadiums.

“We want to make sure that, since Jackson County dropped the ball here, that we’re in a position to do a scoop-and-score.”

Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Stilwell Republican and chairman of the House commerce committee

“We want to make sure that, since Jackson County dropped the ball here, that we’re in a position to do a scoop-and-score,” Tarwater said.

Tarwater said conversations among legislators and others had been ongoing, but without direct negotiations with the Chiefs or Royals.

“We’ve been working on some sort of a solution for them for some time now,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we have the right plan for when the time is right for us to start those negotiations.”

He said the project would involve issuance of state-approved STAR bonds, which would finance construction and be repaid with sales and liquor tax revenue. In addition, the legislation would call for bonds issued through a community improvement district and through tax increment financing.

No Kansan would be asked to approve a sales tax increase for the professional sports facilities, Tarwater said.

“We are using tomorrow’s money. It’s tomorrow’s money we otherwise wouldn’t receive because these structures will bring in the business and they will cause development around them and the sales tax from those developments is what funds these bonds,” he said.

Tim Carpenter covers the Capitol for the Kansas Reflector, a nonprofit news operation covering Kansas state government and politics as part of States NewsroomThis story first appeared on the Reflector.

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