Jackson County officials have taken notice of actions by Kansas City to keep alive the idea of a downtown baseball stadium a decade or so down the road.
They also point out that county taxpayers have relatively recently put hundreds of millions of dollars into upgrades of Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums, locking the Royals and Chiefs into long-term leases.
“I just think it makes all the sense in the world to be happy with the stadium we have,” County Legislator Dennis Waits, D-Independence, said this week.
But he also noted news, reported last week by The Kansas City Star, that Kansas City is paying for studies of four downtown sites for a baseball stadium. That would have “a lot of ramifications for the taxpayers of Jackson County,” Waits said.
The Chiefs and Royals have leases with the county through 2031. They signed 25-year leases in 2006 when voters approved a three-eighths-cent sales tax to pay for the renovations of Arrowhead and Kauffman.
Although the leases have 14 years to go, Waits said, “ … I think we really need to get more information on this” so county officials know what their options are.
A move for a new stadium for the Royals – Waits put the cost at $800 million to $1 billion – would lead the Chiefs to ask for similar considerations, he said.
Waits also said the county has pressing issues right now, such as whether to renovate or replace the County Detention Center.
Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, agreed.
“Once we get closer to 2031, yes, we need to look at that,” he said. “But today is not the day.”
Tarwater said the county has a much more pressing stadium concern. A condition of the leases is that the state of Missouri provide $3 million a year for stadium upkeep and improvements. Jackson County pays another $3 million, and Kansas City pays $2 million.
The state says its $3 million a year is going away after 2019, and county officials say that would breach the teams’ leases, leaving them free to leave. County lobbyists warned county legislators about the problem earlier this year, and maintaining that funding is expected to be on the county’s agenda for action in the Missouri General Assembly.