With some hesitation, Jackson County legislators are moving ahead with plans to let fans buy old seats from Arrowhead Stadium.
Legislators voted Monday to spend $42,725 for temporary storage of more than 30,000 seats from the 1990s – some intact, some torn up during removal – that have been taken out of Arrowhead’s upper deck. New seats – with cup holders – are going in along with other changes such as a new scoreboard on the west end. The team is expected to be reimbursed by taxpayers for the $4.4 million in work.
The Chiefs had proposed recycling the plastic and metal from the old seats and asked the county to come get them. The Chiefs and Royals lease Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums from the county, and fixtures such as seats are county property.
But Caleb Clifford, chief of staff to County Executive Frank White Jr., told legislators recycling in this case would be a “monumental mistake.”
“ … it is clear there is value in those seats,” he said, adding that seats from the old Astrodome in Houston went for $200 a pair and 7,000 pair were sold – a $1.4 million payday for that county.
Legislators were skeptical.
“Any business plan would identify how much money we’re going to make when this is all said and done,” said Legislator Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs.
Clifford agreed and said that is not yet clear. The Chiefs, he insisted, caught the county off guard by simply announcing the off-season stadium improvements in January. He said the county might need a third party to carry this out and that it might make more sense to wait until football season to sell the seats.
He said about 17,000 are in good enough shape to sell. The Legislature would decide how to spend any profits.
“But this will take time. … This is an event that never should have occurred,” Clifford said.
Legislators went along, but several pointed out that with talk of a new jail and other capital improvements, they have far bigger things on their plates and that merchandising isn’t usually a county function.
“That’s not what the county does. … We’re not good at it,” said Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City.
Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, suggested the Chiefs – as the county’s partner – should have helped out.
“ … they’re not poor, and we’re strapped,” she said.
In the end, six of the nine legislators went along with storing the seats, meaning plans to sell them can proceed. Those six were Lauer; Williams; Jalen Anderson, D-Blue Springs; Charlie Franklin, D-Independence; Theresa Galvin, R-Lee’s Summit; and Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit.
The three who voted no were Tarwater; Scott Burnett, D-Kansas City; and Ronald E. Finley, D-Kansas City.
Anderson expressed deep frustration with spending 45 minutes discussing old stadium seats when larger issues – he mentioned poverty in the county, drug use and sex trafficking – grow worse by the day.
“And we are sitting here arguing about chairs,” he said. “ … This is outrageous.”