Time is starting to run short for Jackson County to get the state of Missouri to commit to another 10 years of funding for Arrowhead and Kauffman stadium upkeep – funding crucial to meet the obligations of the leases keeping the Chiefs and Royals in Kansas City.
“That’s really our focus,” Fred Dreiling, the County Legislature’s chief lobbyist in Jefferson City, told county legislators this week.
Here’s the math behind the policy questions: In 2006, Jackson County voters approved a three-eighths-cent sales tax to pay for $850 million in renovations to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums, and the teams signed 25-year leases. Under those agreements, county pays $2 million a year for stadium maintenance and improvements, Kansas City pays $2 million, and Missouri pays $3 million.
The county owns the stadiums, and despite the terms of the lease, the state says its $3 million obligation ends after next year. If the state didn’t come through with its $3 million, the county would either have to cover that or risk breaching the teams’ leases.
Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, said losing the $3 million and violating the leases “would be a major blow to the economy here.”
There’s more math that complicates things a little more: Missouri pays Kansas City $2 million a year for Bartle Hall. By contrast, it pays St. Louis $12 million a year for The Dome at America’s Center (formerly the Edward Jones Dome and, before that, the TWA Dome). It has sat nearly idle since the Rams football team moved to Los Angeles three years ago – so, unlike Arrowhead and Kauffman, it’s generating few taxes to offset the state subsidy. And, Dreiling said, if the state dropped the $2 million for Bartle, Kansas City might not come across with its $2 million for the stadiums, potentially an ever bigger financial hole for the county.
But Dreiling sees a couple openings.
“People in Missouri have adopted the Chiefs,” he said, adding that, right or wrong, their success on the field could make keeping the funding easier.
Also, the St. Louis Blues want to replace their 25-year-old arena, and the team is asking for $2.5 million a year from the state. That could mean leverage in working out an overall funding deal, and Dreiling expressed a degree of optimism.
“But,” Tarwater said, “we cannot take our eye off the ball.”
Stadium funding and jail funding have both been at the top of the County Legislature’s priority list for Jefferson City for years, and both have been unresolved for years.
County officials point out that the vast majority of people sitting in the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City are there on state charges but local taxpayers foot most of that bill. It costs the county about $105 a day to house an inmate, but the state only reimburses counties $22.58, and that’s only after a conviction. Even at that, the state is $31 million behind on its payments – $2 million to Jackson County alone.
Gov. Mike Parson put money in his proposed budget to make good on the $31 million, but the Republican-controlled House took it out. He also budgeted bumping the $22.58 a day to $23.58, but the House took that out, too.
“We’re very hopeful that when we go over to the Senate we can put those dollars back in there …” Dreiling said.