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Examiner
  • Sanders: Spend stadium money on stadiums

  • The Kansas City Royals are five years into the expected seven-year life of their high-tech scoreboard, one of the many features of the recently renovated Kauffman Stadium that last month hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

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  • The Kansas City Royals are five years into the expected seven-year life of their high-tech scoreboard, one of the many features of the recently renovated Kauffman Stadium that last month hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
    Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders says he wants to see a plan for when that and other ongoing maintenance issues are addressed. For now, he contends, tax money meant for maintenance of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums has been diverted for team operations.
    The teams are within their rights, as laid out in their stadiums leases, but Sanders wants the Jackson County Sports Authority to take a tougher line on team requests for how the millions of local and state dollars are spent.
    “The point is that isn’t what we should be doing with the money,” Sanders said at Thursday’s Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon.
    Here’s how the money works. Jackson County voters in 2006 approved a 25-year, three-eighth-cent sales tax to renovate both stadiums, raising more than $400 million. The state of Missouri and the teams also contributed to the $700 million in renovations. In exchange, the teams extended their leases by 16 years, through 2030. The Royals got an All-Star Game, though the National Football League backed off an initial promise of Super Bowl at Arrowhead. Also, the teams were responsible for any cost overruns with the renovations, which were completed in 2011.
    That, Sanders says, has given taxpayers the impression that their obligations to the stadiums have been capped.
    The dispute is over a second pool of money, one that existed even before renovations. Each year, the county and state each contribute $3 million and Kansas City contributes $2 million a year to a fund for ongoing maintenance. The Sports Authority says yes or no to the teams’ requests on how that’s spent, and Sanders points out that he doesn’t control the five-member authority. When a seat on the board is open, the County Legislature nominates three people, and the governor names one of them.
    In a recent four-year period, Sanders says, the Royals had $16.9 million from the maintenance fund at their disposal and spent $15.4 million of it on what he called “game-day operations.”
    “So it’s the first time publicly we’ve been saying, ‘That’s not the way to do business,’” he said, adding that his comments have generated a good deal of animosity. He stresses that his problem is not so much with the teams as it is with the Sports Authority not drawing a hard enough line on the spending.
    “Those stadiums you see out there today aren’t going to look like that in the future,” he said. Instead, he’d like to see a list and a plan for what will get replaced or upgraded.
    Page 2 of 2 - Sanders said he sees hope in last week’s appointment of a new member of the Sports Authority, Kansas City attorney Stephen Bough – an appointment Gov. Jay Nixon made less than 24 hours after getting the nominations.
    “I think this is a new direction for the Sports Authority,” Sanders said.
    Public attention also helps, he said, pointing out that the authority meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Arrowhead – a meeting open to the public.
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