Royals Pitch $2 Billion Downtown Ballpark Development, ‘Largest Public-Private Investment in KC History’

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A rendering of a potential downtown Royals ballpark released by the ball club.

By Kevin Collison

Royals owner John Sherman officially announced what’s long been expected Tuesday–he intends to relocate his ball club to downtown as part of what he described as a $2 billion redevelopment plan.

“A new home would be a far better investment, both for local taxpayer dollars already supporting our facility, and for the Kansas City community,” Sherman said in a letter posted on the Royals Twitter account.

“Our vision is to not just build a facility that does justice to the spirit of The K. We want to construct a world-class experience – a new ballpark district and all that comes with It – one that is woven into the fabric of our city, can host events and concerts, and boosts our local economy.”

While Sherman did not announce a site, he said there are several leading locations, both in downtown and “nearby” for what he described as a redevelopment that would include not only a ballpark, but retail, office, hotel and residential projects including affordable housing.

“Each site offers unique opportunities. We look forward to seeking input from the public over the coming months about our vision to best serve our residents and build on the momentum our city is experiencing.”

One of the prime locations the Royals have been considering is the East Village district, an eight-block development site northeast of City Hall.

Other locations that have been mentioned include the 18th and Troost area on property controlled by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority near the 18th & Vine District, and in the East Crossroads where the former Kansas City Star printing plant is located.

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

In his letter, Sherman said the development he is envisioning would include more than a ballpark, but restaurants and shops, office space, hotels, and a variety of housing opportunities.

“The proposed ballpark district would become a new home for Royals fans far and wide – both inside a state-of-the-art ballpark and in the revitalized surrounding area,” he wrote.

“We will marry the traditions of The K with a better experience for our fans with a mixture of public and private investment, including our own intention to invest hundreds of millions of dollars directly into the ballpark and the ballpark district, the long-term vision remains a work-in-progress.”

The Royals are believed to be looking at the Atlanta Braves as a model for a larger redevelopment anchored on a ballpark.

The Braves built more than a 41,000-seat ballpark in a public-private deal with suburban Cobb County when it chose to leave downtown five years ago.

As part of their big move, the ownership acquired 90 acres adjoining the ballpark and partnered with developers to build a nine-story, regional Comcast headquarters, a 264-room Omni Hotel, 4,000-seat concert venue, restaurants, bars and residences.

Sherman described the Royals project and surrounding redevelopment as being a $2 billion venture that would be the “largest public-private development project in Kansas City history.”

He said the development would not require any increased taxes on Jackson County residents, who already are paying a 3/8ths cent sales tax to maintain the Truman Sports Complex. The assumption would be county voters would extend the current sales tax.

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

He said “hundreds of millions of dollars” in private investment would be part of the project and the State of Missouri would be asked to provide funding as well as the federal government.

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.

“To accomplish this move, our plans will be contingent on continuing our public-private partnership and investment with multiple local jurisdictions and the State of Missouri,” Sherman wrote.

He estimated construction of the redevelopment would create 20,000 construction jobs or $1.4 billion in labor income, and have a $2.8 billion economic impact.

“We anticipate that the inaugural year of the new ballpark will drive approximately $185 million more in regional economic output than The K does today,” he wrote.

“Greater regional visitation will sustain more than 600 new jobs, and spending at the new ballpark district and across the region will drive more than $60 million in new tax revenue over the first decade.”

Sherman said the new ballpark would retain its iconic fountains that have made Kauffman Field one of the more attractive ballparks in America. There also has been speculation the ballpark would be smaller than The K with 28,000 seats. The K seats 38,000.

The Truman Sports Complex opened in 1972-73 and is managed by the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority. (Image from JCSCA web page)

“We also envision incorporating our Kansas City fountains, the Royals’ crown and our team’s rich traditions and history in a new ballpark district,” he wrote.

“The proposed ballpark district would become a new home for Royals fans far and wide – both inside a state-of-the-art ballpark and in the revitalized surrounding area.”

“A new home would be a far better investment, both for local taxpayer dollars already supporting our facility, and for the Kansas City community.

If this proposal moves forward, we see this development as another storied chapter for Kansas City. We’d very much look forward to writing it together.”

One big question mark surrounding the Royals is what will the Chiefs be seeking at Truman Sports Complex. Both teams’ leases at the facility run through 2031.

It’s believed the Chiefs will want to redevelop the Kauffman Field site as an entertainment district should they decide to renovate Arrowhead or build a new stadium.

Bringing the Royals downtown has been a longtime goal for downtown advocates who have pointed to how similar projects have benefit other cities including Denver, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Baltimore.

The Downtown Council made a major push in 2005 to encourage former Royals owner David Glass to relocate the team even to the point of doing a study to demonstrate its benefits.

While Glass allowed the effort, which included several major downtown business and civic leaders to proceed for awhile, he ultimately decided to renovate Kauffman instead as part of the current lease deal.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I have lived in Kansas City all my life. I remember when we had a downtown stadium. it was awful. No places to park, and inconvenient to get to and from. Then there was a study done to find a perfect location for a stadium which was convenient for all no matter from where they were coming from to get to and with plenty of safe parking. (the best of both worlds). As a result we built what was considered to be the most beautiful stadium in the United States. Now we want to go back and repeat the mistakes of the past with a stadium downtown and all the difficulties and safety issues we had. It’s already horrible enough to find a way to get around downtown when something is going on at T-Mobile center. It will be twice as bad if we put a stadium downtown also. Rather than mess up our downtown even more why not use the money instead to provide people living and staying downtown a way to get to the present stadium.

  2. The poster before me said something that resonated with me. I’m on the KS side. The K is easy for me to get to. I don’t like going downtown as it is because of traffic, safety, issues, etc. If it was being built and opened next season I wouldn’t go. I have 4 small children an we Iove going to the K as it is now.

    We usually get the fountain seats across the concourse from the fun zone.

    My dad took me to the K. I’m taking my kids to the K and I want them to have that same experience as well.

    The “zone” doesn’t scream, let’s take the kids to a lazy Sunday game after church. Instead it screams for young people to go bar hopping and to accidentally end up at the game. Or worse, they leave after 5 innings to go be entertained at a surrounding establishment.

    Smaller stadium also equals pricier tickets. It looks like I’d better go as often as I can with my littles these next 9 years because I won’t be going after that 🙁

  3. Absolutely not. We are already spending public dollars for a private enterprise. The Royals can renovate their stadium as much as they like but no public money should go to it or any misguided new construction.

  4. Nobody in the suburbs wants to drive all the way to downtown. You reached a happy medium between the city and suburbs for both types of residents when building the last sports complex. This move will reduce your attendance significantly and is a major mistake that has been tried before and failed. It will be great for city people but you will lose your biggest ticket purchasers – the suburbs, who won’t make the drive and hate going into the city for anything. Your ticket purchasers in greatest mass are those same mom/dads/grandparents taking kids, not city dwellers. Overtime it will kill attendance as you dump the entire I 70 east population. Glass would not spend on better players due to under 20,000 attendees, which is right now climbing towards 30,000 and finally pulling you out of the long standing slump. Move the stadium to downtown and watch the decline. Buy better players now and renovate where you are to fix the problem, or move and after the initial curiosity of attendees just to see the new, watch the plummet begin in slow decline. The Chiefs will survive the split, the Royals won’t.

  5. $20/25 ,parking for the T-Mobile center & parking is hard to find. Add Baseball stadium and all parking will be $25 or HIGHER . Friday/Saturday and Sunday games will have a negative impact on all other events going on Downton.

  6. Just FYI, they (Royals) have been planning to leave after the lease is up since 2017. No ifs ands or buts. So either we accept that there is going to be a downtown stadium or the Royals will find a new home somewhere else. Definitely not the Truman Sports Complex.

  7. Yes, yes, yes. Baseball was intended to be played in an urban setting and this investment would be a huge catalyst to complete our downtown renaissance. Restaurants, hotels, and shopping downtown would prosper and grow with this investment. Out of town and local fans would have an enhanced experience vs driving to the current stadium and driving home. With the streetcar connecting the River Market all the way to UMKC, parking options would actually better than the current situation.

  8. I grew up in Kansas City. I love the K however I think a downtown ball park is a great idea, the chiefs should stay. Because tailgating and football go hand and hand in KC. But not so much with Baseball. Also if they do build it in the east village that’s far enough away from a lot of the other action going on downtown to be able to find routes easy enough to get there. I would also like to mention if you go to any other major city downtown it’s far worse getting around then ours is. I doubt a ballpark would negatively effect it that much especially since a large portion of the people attending baseball games now go through downtown to get to the K.

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