Jackson County Balks at Starting Royals Downtown Ballpark Talks

County Executive Frank White Jr. at the time he was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1995. He played second base for the team from 1973 to 1990. (Photo from Royals website)

By Kevin Collison

Last month, Royals owner John Sherman expressed frustration about “waiting on a few people” who didn’t share the team’s urgency about negotiating a downtown ballpark deal.

Turns out, that negotiating ball has literally been in Jackson County’s court since at least mid-June, according to senior-level sources close to the concept with the Royals and County Hall.

That’s when the Royals sent Jackson County what’s called a term sheet outlining what the club wants in a long-term lease for a proposed ballpark at the East Village and extending the existing 3/8th cent county sales tax to help pay for it

They’ve been waiting for a response ever since and sources say part of the hold-up has been with Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr.

John Sherman at a press conference last month where he expressed frustration about the pace of negotiations for a proposed new downtown ballpark.


The former Royals Hall of Fame second baseman is said to believe the county should retain outside legal help to negotiate with the Royals, and personally, still may be annoyed over being fired by the club’s previous management as a television game analyst in 2011.

Jackson County also had favored a potential ballpark site near 18th and Vine, a location the Royals have ruled out.

In a written response, Marshanna Smith, White’s press aide, said:

“For five decades, the County has fostered a relationship of respect and positivity with the Kansas City Royals.

“We hold unwavering confidence that this fruitful partnership will continue throughout the current contract and even beyond, as we diligently strive to ensure the team remains rooted in Jackson County for countless years ahead.

“Additionally, I’d refer you to the County Executive’s previous statement regarding downtown baseball, specifically that he will ‘endorse a new downtown stadium only when I am convinced it serves the best interests of Jackson County residents.'”

In the meantime, North Kansas City has offered an alternative site to downtown Kansas City the Royals are seriously considering.

A bronze sculpture of Frank White, Jr. is located outside Kauffman Field. (Photo from Jackson County website)

The Merriman family of Financial Holding Corp., a major developer in the area, acquired an 85-acre site just south of North Kansas City’s downtown district and has made a strong play for the Royals ballpark along with Clay County officials.

“Who can blame the Royals if they have a dance partner ready to dance vs a party who doesn’t,” said a Jackson County source. “We’ve been sitting on our hands.”

While Sherman didn’t name names at his June 29 press conference, he did emphasize the team had been straightforward with Jackson County about what it needs to pursue building the estimated $1 billion ballpark.

“Our ask from them (Jackson County) is clear, to extend the existing 3/8 cent sale tax thats being used today to maintain two aging buildings and to redeploy that capital to do something that’s very special,” the club owner said at the time.

In a letter released this week, Sherman reaffirmed the team plans to make a decision on where to build the ballpark by late summer.

He also promised more details about what the club envisions in what’s called a ballpark district redevelopment that would accompany the stadium either in the East Village or North Kansas City would be released in the next 30 days.

The team has said previously it could include hotels, restaurants and bars, shops, apartments and offices.

An overhead view of a potential Royals ballpark that would include other development as well such as offices, hotel, residential and retail. (Rendering from Royals)

“We will create a world-class ballpark that keeps pace with out peers nationwide, brings to Kansas Citians a dynamic and energized ballpark experience and is woven into the fabric of our region,” Sherman wrote.

“We anticipate that the inaugural year of the new ballpark is expected to generate some $185 million more in regional economic output than The K does today.”

The entire development would cost an estimated $2 billion, with the Royals ownership group committing more than $1 billion. The county sales tax extension would yield $300- to $350 million for the ballpark project.

The Chiefs, who would like to renovate Arrowhead and demolish Kauffman to make way for an entertainment district, would receive the same amount from a county sales tax extension.

A vote on the county sales tax extension won’t occur until next April at the earliest.

Among the issues Jackson County would like resolved when it responds to the Royals lease proposal include the ballpark ownership, who will pay for demolishing Kauffman and what perks might be available for Jackson County residents wanting to attend Royals games.

“We haven’t even started those conversations,” a county source said. “We haven’t even engaged with them.”

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  1. I think that they need to wait until we have a baseball team that knows how to win on a regular basis before they move. Also i think they can renovate Kauffman and keep it where it is

    • You can’t just sit and wait, time moves on whether they are winning or losing. Let’s pretend nothing happens. Then the lease is up, and the KC has nothing to hold the team to KC, either at the sports complex or elsewhere. By the time KC gets off their ass, because they move like molasses (see KC airport) it will be too late.

      And as far as renovating the K, that’s fine, but again that comes at a cost to Jackson County (they own the stadiums). And Chiefs and Royals have both said the concrete below is crumbling and needs to be replaced. as it’s almost 60 yrs old. Which means a lot of money to completely replace all of that while keeping stadium usable. It’s ALWAYS easy to replace something than to repair. Especially when it comes to event spaces.

  2. The plan calls for an entertainment district around the new park. There are plans for other E districts on the railroad bridge on the West bottoms; around the ferris wheel near Union Ststion; an E district around the Womens Soccer Stadium and of course the Power and Light District. I truly do not believe we do not have that many party people in this city. Do they think the citizens in Mid to Southern Johnson County, Eastern Jackson County; and the Northlanders and will drive downtown for dinner? That will not happen. IF the new sales tax is approved, how much will the Chiefs want for their yet to be announced project?

    • The younger crowd will go to where the hot spots are. Doesn’t matter where they live, they will go there. They drive to the sports complex now for games, and drive all the way to Legends for soccer. And already drive to downtown T-mobile Center for concerts, big 12, ect. So, yes they will drive. Places like P@L is crazy packed when they have event. Ie… the US women soccer games. KC can definitely use other spots around the city. Now, how much is too much? I don’t know. However, plans are just plans until something actually opens. So first come first serve. Ppl are active around the metro. Try getting a pickleball court. I dare you.

      From everything I’ve heard, the Chiefs want the same 3/8th tax to just be extended as well. So IF it passed, it would continue like it currently does, benefiting both teams. They haven’t said precisely what their plan is, but the understanding is to renovate Arrowhead and us the Royals stadium space for their project. And notice, the price to renovate Arrowhead isn’t any cheaper than building a new stadium for the Royals.

      • The younger crowd isn’t who goes to baseball games… Largely. And most of the younger people there are there with family members.

  3. What a mess! The grassroots folks that have supported the Royals all these years don’t count for anything. It’s not a stadium Sherman wants, it’s the real estate and a big entertainment venue and offices. It’s all about the money, certainly not about the team or the fans. Not once has he talked about spending some of that billions on team improvements. Nope, just follow the money! Sad.

    • Yes, Sherman is looking for additional revenue. KC is a small market. MLB is not a level playing field economics wise. The large markets get a lot more TV revenue than the small markets do. Therefore, the small markets cannot compete year in and year out. Teams like the Cardinals and Braves built ballpark villages around their stadiums to generate additional revenue. With that revenue they’ve been able to stay competitive year in and year out. We’ll until this year for the Cardinals but they had 15 consecutive winning seasons coming into this year.

      If you’re fine with the stars aligning every 30 years or so then keep the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. But don’t be surprised if the Royals take off when their current lease is up.

  4. It is funny this owner has money for a new stadium but not enough money to make the team viable. I have noticed a trend. The Royals Owner I believe is a bully he wants what he wants. Recently there have been several rumblings about Frank Whites leadership there are those on the County Council taking jabs at him. Then suddenly the Mayor Quinton Lucas is in the news saying Mr White is somehow responsible for rising house values. There seems to be a chipping away of Mr Whites integrity. Maybe you all in KC have forgotten about his playing days or maybe you are too young to know about them. I have not. Frank White was and is a model of consistency. He was not the one that went to prison, he was not the arrogant hot head. He was terrific offensively and defensively. I do not believe he is holding a grudge against the Royals organization which is not the one that fired him. I do believe this Royals Organization will do ANYTHING to get what they HE want(s). Wake Up Jackson Countians this very wealthy old out of town guy will destroy Jackson County to get what he wants.

  5. Please name ONE company in existence today that operates the same way it did in 1972. I’ll wait. That is the way we are asking the Royals to operate. We have been spoiled by the Truman Sports Complex. Many teams have built 2 stadiums since the Royals first started playing in Kauffman Stadium. To renovate the stadiums (again) is like putting a bow tie on a pig. At the end of the day, it’s still a pig. It sounds to me like North Kansas City WANTS the Royals, while Jackson County is simply taking it for granted that the team won’t leave Kansas City. When I was a young man, I watched helplessly while the A’s left Kansas City for Oakland. The Royals would not be in existence if the late Sen. Stuart Symington had threatened to introduce legislation revoking baseball’s Anti-Trust status. If we lose the Royals, there will not be a repeat. Also, Mr. Sherman is a lifelong resident of Kansas City. He is not a “very wealthy old out of town guy”. Most observers of Frank White agree he is consistent…consistently BAD! If you don’t think he would hold a grudge over getting axed as the Royals television analyst, then you OBVIOUSLY don’t know Frank White. He made his position clearly known, and he was not happy about it. He has the “martyr” complex down pat, the same as he did in his playing days.

  6. To base a 50 year decision on the Royals 2023 record is extremely shortsighted. It was less than 10 years ago that the Chiefs had the worst record in the NFL and drafted Eric Fisher. The Royals won the World Series 8 years ago. Anybody who understands the economics of Major League Baseball knows that the Royals would be throwing away money if they bought a few mediocre free agents just so that they could get a few more wins and appease the uneducated fan. They need to stick with the young guys and determine what they have. By the time a new stadium is voted on and built, hopefully the Royals will be able to afford keeping a Bobby Witt long term as well as a few other core players. We know that they can’t sign their own players long term if they stay at the Truman Sports Complex with its’ limited revenue sources. Hosmer, Moustakis, Cain…they were all gone as soon as they desired a big, long term contract. It is amazing that they were able to keep Salvy and Gordon.

    No matter what, the taxpayers are going to need to pay 3/8 of a cent sales tax to keep the Royals and the Chiefs in the Kansas City area. Why would you throw that money at a stadium that will be 60 years old at the end of the current lease. If you are going to spend the money, why not get something in return. Why would you not want 8,000 to 40,000 people walking the streets in front of a new downtown baseball stadium during the summer? That brings more money to restaurants, hotels, etc. surrounding the stadium. Right now, you park in a gigantic, cement parking lot, watch the game and then go home. Invest in your city and create a much better place to watch a game. The naysayers are the same people who said that Kemper was fine, that the old KCI was fine. Who isn’t happy when they see a national broadcast of all of the fans packed in to KC Live to watch a sporting event. KC Live would not be there if our city would not have gotten off of its’ rearend and built the then Sprint Center.

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