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Opinion: Downtown Ballpark Talks Get Foul

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2 minute read

Mayor Quinton Lucas was right last week when he said whoever leaked the misleading Jackson County internal memo to The Star about the long-term (40 years) financial implications of the proposed downtown Royals ballpark is trying to sabotage negotiations:

“Yesterday, there was a leak which said county estimated new stadium is between $4B and $6B. Seemed unrealistic and a sign to some, me included, of bad faith negotiation.

“Given the same county folks are negotiating with Chiefs, I’m concerned current tactics could lose both teams,” Lucas said on X aka Twitter.

It’s no secret there’s little love lost between County Executive Frank White and the Royals.

These ballpark lease negotiations should have started in earnest several months ago, and now White and his advisors are trying to change the foundation of the public financing that supported the renovation and maintenance of the Truman Sports Complex, the 3/8th cent county sales tax.

Sources say White doesn’t want the Royals and Chiefs to evenly split the 3/8th cent as they’ve done since the stadiums were renovated in 2006. He wants to reduce that amount so each team would receive one-third of that tax and the county keep the remaining third.

A rendering of the proposed East Village ballpark and surrounding development in downtown Kansas City. (Rendering by Populous)

To push that concept, a county memo was prepared that calculated the potential total amount the sales tax would raise over 40 years.

Many people are interpreting that leaked document to mean the cost of the stadium has gone up substantially as noted by the mayor. The Royals insist it’s still the $1 billion they originally stated and the county sales tax would pay $350 million toward its construction.

To look at the 40-year cost of a project as opposed to its upfront cost is roughly the equivalent of calculating the purchase price of a house based on how much you’ll wind up paying on its 30-year mortgage.

It’s like considering a $400,000 house and dropping the idea because it would cost a million-plus dollars when you add up all your monthly payments and other associated costs over 30 years.

What’s also concerning is if Jackson County winds up messing this up, it’s far from a sure thing the Royals could take up the North Kansas City offer.

That deal relies on Clay County voters approving a significant new sales tax which would be a tough sell.

For the first time, there’s a slight crack in the door to the Royals potentially leaving KC for more lucrative, MLB-free metros such as Nashville, Charlotte and Austin.

Not panicking yet, and I know from experience that negotiations can be messy during the “sausage-making” process, but at this point, we can agree the talks are far from going smoothly.

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