New Royals Owner Talks About Downtown Baseball, East Village

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John Sherman, chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Royals. (Photo by Jason Hanna)

By Kevin Collison

While cautioning it’s early in the game, John Sherman, the new owner of the Royals, has no problem talking up the economic benefits of downtown baseball and says he’s already being lobbied on possible sites.

“Baseball creates more economic opportunity in denser areas versus suburban areas or less dense areas,” Sherman said in a recent interview with CityScene KC.

“If you can put together the right package, downtown would be an interesting opportunity.”

While the team has not formally begun a review process, Sherman said there are several groups “putting ideas together.”

At this point, the proposed East Village location shows the most promise.

It’s an eight-block redevelopment area northeast of City Hall with enough space for a ballpark and already is controlled by one entity that would welcome the Royals, VanTrust Real Estate.

“We’ve been hearing from real estate people and others,” Sherman said. “The East Village is certainly a spot that could be of interest.

“I think there’s a top architectural firm or two who think this is a good spot.”

The East Village redevelopment area occupies eight blocks near City Hall.

The East Village redevelopment site also is next door to the headquarters of J.E. Dunn Construction. The Dunn Family and J.E. Dunn are minority stakeholders in the Royals new ownership group.

Sherman also was familiar with two other possible locations, one that’s been in the potential downtown ballpark mix before, the North Loop, and another that has not come up in previous speculation, a location off Southwest Boulevard.

The North Loop site on the north side of the central business district is currently mostly controlled by Tower Properties and consists of several blocks now used for surface parking. It’s across the North Loop freeway from the River Market.

Sherman couldn’t offer details about the Southwest Boulevard idea, however a real estate source says enough land is available on a hilltop site near Cambridge Circle, not far from the Boulevard Brewery.

While it offers the potential for a ballpark aligned with a downtown skyline view beyond the outfield, it is not within easy walking distance, and the hilly topography is cutoff from downtown by the freeway and railroad tracks.

Sherman said at this point he was listening to ideas, and threw some praise to the team’s current location as well.

“You start with the fact we have a great ballpark on I-70 and 435, a beautiful place to play and we have a good relationship with Jackson County,” he said. “It’s a good lease with 11 years to go.”

A rendering of how a potential downtown ballpark would have looked at the North Loop site was part of a 2005 study by Barrett Sports Group.

That being said, Sherman acknowledged it will take significant lead time to assemble land and design a downtown ballpark should that be the route chosen.

“We have to be seriously looking at that within the next few years,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do.”

That work would include determining how a new ballpark would be financed, traffic studies and other planning work. As opposed to his predecessor however, parking was not an overriding issue.

“It’s just one factor,” Sherman said. It’s part of what would need to be done to make sure it would work.

“Not everybody likes the idea of a downtown stadium, but a lot of people do for economic development. Parking is just one of the things.”

As for how a new downtown ballpark, which could cost an estimated $800 million or more, be financed, Sherman said he’s open to ideas.

“I wouldn’t want to comment on a lot of that,” he said. “It would take a public-private partnership and have to work for everybody.”

One benefit of the East Village location is it’s located within a federal opportunity zone, a designation that would allow private investors in a ballpark project to obtain federal tax credits. The Southwest Boulevard location also is within a federal opportunity zone.

And while much discussion has been on the cost of building a downtown ballpark, whether staying put at Kauffman Field facility would be a substantially less expensive option is unknown.

This map shows how a ballpark could be located on a hilltop site near Southwest Boulevard.

The existing ballpark, which opened in 1973, will be almost 60 years old at the expiration of the current lease, and it cost $250 million to renovate it 11 years ago.

Sherman said it would be “hard to predict” whether the team would want to renovate the building again.

“It’ll depend on what we’ve done between now and then to keep current,” he said.

In addition to the potential economic development spinoffs of a downtown ballpark, the team could do better financially as well.

Sherman said he agreed with the conclusions of a report done by the Downtown Council in 2005 that indicated weekday attendance would benefit and a downtown ballpark would likely attract more corporate buy-in.

“There are more opportunities for those types of things (corporate suites),” he said. “Downtown baseball also can drive attendance.”

And the new Royals owner believes downtown has become a more attractive place since his predecessor, David Glass, was pitched on the idea of baseball there before rejecting it 15 years ago.

“I do like what’s going on downtown,” he said. “I think trends are great with Sprint Center, Power & Light District and the residential development.

“Kansas City is attracting young people down there and there’s new employment.”

(Editor’s note: Beginning in December 2019, CityScene KC has become a paid subscription publication)

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14 COMMENTS

  1. The SW boulevard location would be a disaster. I’d much rather see it stay where it is then move there. The east village would be ideal.

  2. What about parking? These plans don’t show any close parking. Walking many blocks or having to wait for shuttles to various lots doesn’t bode well for driving attendance up.

  3. What about the people that work down there? My parking lot is one they are scheming for? I work right by the East Village.

    Hope you like the homeless and mentally ill with your baseball!

    Where am I supposed to park? Please do tell? Ride in on a magic carpet?

    When are the renovations for Kauffman paid for? What would you actually do with Kauffman? Let it rot? Why renovate Kauffman and turn around leave?

    Is (he) going to pay for a new stadium? Or is it of course another developer handout?

  4. What a joke this truly is. I would never go again. It would be a total loss of who we really are. Just pretending to be some other city and some other team. Consumerism for consumerism’s sake. Sad.

  5. Dumbest idea ever. Its just a money grab for the owners. Who gets to build the new park? I bet its J E Dunn, because they are part owners of the team. We going to give them 200 million in tax breaks like they did for the law firm moving to KCMO? The only thimg that drives up attendence is a winning team. Sorry to say but theres no reason to go downtown. Sprint center is the worst place to see a show, Power and Light is a joke. All they want is more corporate boxes to sit in which most people cant afford

  6. Have been to Wrigley Field in Chicago several times. You DO NOT drive and park there. Taking the EL (elevated subway basically ) is the way to go. The Cubby Bear bar across the street is electric on gameday. This being for a lousy Cubs team. St. Louis is a magical place to during games. A very tall parking garage helps in the Lou and traffic moves much better than one would expect. East Village is perfectly suited for this Well worth it.

    • Only if they build a multi story parking lot with several entrances and exits. The Truman Complex was put where it is because of easy access and exit. Chicago may have the elevated, but it handles only a small percentage of people. Attendees have to use shuttles, or find small expensive lots here and there. The Wrigley Experiences is NOT fun!

      • The Wrigley Experience is not fun? Wait. Are we talking about the same place? Wrigley is so much fun it is has grown into a worldwide tourist destination while also serving as one of the catalysts for a revival of urban living across the country. It is also THE reason why all these new ballparks were built DOWNTOWN. Lots of folks objecting to downtown baseball here are giving such idiosyncratic objections that they sound like Grampa Simpson yelling at the cloud in the sky.

        As for whether the Royals _need_ a new ballpark, well, good luck with that argument. So many cities will finance new ballparks now that it’s a race to the bottom. “Need” has nothing to do with it. So unless KC wants to be a football only town (which some folks would want), the Royals will get whatever they want or some other city (say, Las Vegas) will give it to them.

        • Wrigley may be fun if you are a Cubs fan or totally into nostalgia. Kauffman is a much nicer, more fan friendly ball park, to say nothing of the food offerings and of course parking.

          KC is not nor will they be in danger of losing a franchise because they don’t go downtown. Quite the contrary. Maybe in 50 years.

  7. Why would anyone want to get rid of Kauffman Stadium the way it is right now? It’s the best ballpark in baseball! Downtown ballparks are so crowded and there is absolutely no place to park. Also, what would you do with Kauffman if you decide to build a downtown ballpark? You just spent 250 million to make it the best in baseball and now you want to build another one? Please…KEEP KAUFFMAN STADIUM!

  8. Build light rail from downtown/crossroads to the present location…best of both worlds as tailgating is preserved…downtown is served… Have express cars on game days that are non-stop.

  9. Kansas City built some great things in the past, but in the wrong locations, The Truman Sports Complex, Kemper Arena, KCI. Moving the baseball stadium downtown should have been done 20 years ago.

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