Published February 22nd, 2023 at 12:30 PM3 minute read
By Kevin Collison
Royals owner John Sherman says some downtown highway and street infrastructure would need to be modified to handle traffic at a proposed ballpark, but believes parking concerns could be more easily addressed.
With the Royals believed to be still leaning toward locating their proposed ballpark at the East Village site, most road improvements would likely be required in connection with 71 Highway, the highway immediately accessing the redevelopment site.
In an interview in Arizona earlier this week with Sports Radio 810 WHB and other reporters, Sherman said comments received by the team at the three community “listening sessions” its held included concerns over transportation.
“We’re getting this feedback about parking and congestion and all those things,” he said.
“Parking, I think, is an easier problem than people consider. There’s a lot of parking spaces downtown and there will be more public transit options.
“As for egress and ingress: more freeway ramps, widening things, some infrastructure costs, and that’s going to be important to us.
“We’re not going to risk having our fans have a difficult time getting in and out of there 81 nights a year or more. That’s the idea of a downtown ballpark district. This is about economic activity 365 days a year.”
The improvements are expected to include enlarging intersections near the ballpark and widening highway ramps.
“This is the largest infrastructure project in the history of Kansas City,” Sherman told reporters at the Royals training camp in Arizona. “We want a world-class ballpark and district to make sure are competitive with our peers.”
Sherman noted Phoenix struggled to handle Super Bowl traffic on game day.
“I was stuck on the freeway and in fact people were bailing out of their cars and walking to the stadium,” Sherman told Sports Radio 810 reporters with The Program podcast. “We talked about being surprised they weren’t ready for it.”
Like most observers, Sherman noted the critical question about what happens next lies with the Kansas City Chiefs. The football team executives, flush from their Super Bowl victory, have said little except stating a desire to stay at Arrowhead.
But with the team widely believed to at least want a roof built over the existing Arrowhead or possibly replace it with a new stadium, it remains a huge financial shadow hanging over the discussion.
The Royals have said the only taxpayer cash they plan to seek is the estimated $300- to $400 million dollars that extending the current 3/8th cent Jackson County stadium sales tax would generate for each team over 30 years.
That money would cover about 40 percent of the cost of the $1 billion ballpark.
The entire ballpark district redevelopment plan calls for an additional $1 billion in spinoff projects including apartments, restaurants and bars. That component would be privately financed, but would likely seek tax incentives.
A sales tax extension would likely pay for a smaller percentage of an Arrowhead renovation that would include a roof, and much less if a new stadium were to be built.
Populous, a major Kansas City-based sports architecture firm, is working for the Royals on their project and is believed to be engaged by the Chiefs as well.
Sherman said it’s uncertain if a vote on extending the sales tax could occur in August, the earliest potential opportunity.
“There’s some work to do there,” he said. “We’ve been in close communications with the Chiefs and the Chiefs really need to be part of that conversation.
“Where the Chiefs stand is certainly a question that needs to be answered and they’ll be part of that conversation.”
A Chiefs spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
As for where the Royals want to build the ballpark, the club owner said the team wanted to avoid being pinned down to avoid land speculation.
“People are very interested…The highest level of interest seems to be the site. We’ve said we’ve gone from 14 to four or five, I’ll tell you that number is getting smaller.
“I’m hopeful that we’re not too far away from being able to be more specific. We’re not hiding anything. It’s just good business, not trying to start a land rush somewhere around town for the wrong reasons.”
The Royals also have been in preliminary discussions with the state and local governments about the project, but have not made any specific requests.
“I think we have (state) support, but it’s easy to give general support. The devil’s in the details,” Sherman said.
“We’re having meetings directly with the politicians, with political leaders, with civic leaders,” he continued. “We may still do another public meeting or two, that remains to be determined.
“It’s time for us to get down to some brass tacks and make those specific asks and begin negotiations.”