Although a new ballpark would be years away, new Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman sounds open to exploring options for a downtown facility that would replace Kauffman Stadium.
In November, Major League Baseball signed off on a sale of the Royals from David Glass and his family to a local group led by Sherman. Even before that approval took place, speculation had arisen about what effect Sherman’s ownership of the team would have on long-term facility plans, and whether his involvement could accelerate the push for a future move to a new downtown Kansas City ballpark.
More than a decade ago, there was some discussion about replacing Kauffman Stadium with a new ballpark in the city’s downtown, but ultimately the facility’s future was solidified after Jackson County voters decided in 2006 to approve a 0.375 percent sales tax hike to upgrade it and neighboring Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL’s Chiefs. As part of the renovations, the Royals extended their lease to Kauffman Stadium to 2031.
When discussing the situation recently, Sherman stated that he has been pitched a few potential downtown ballpark sites, and indicated a willingness to explore options. For their part, the Royals have yet to launch a formal review, and Sherman is not ruling out the prospect of making further renovations to Kauffman Stadium in the future. Any downtown ballpark plan, however, would come with several complexities that have to be sorted out over a period of years. With that in mind, Sherman believes that the Royals would have to start working through that process long before their Kauffman Stadium lease expires if a move downtown is something they want to pursue. More from CityScene KC:
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.”…
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.”
Even in the aftermath of the Kauffman Stadium renovations, there has been some sentiment–especially among the downtown business community–to take a serious look at a downtown ballpark. While the potential for positive economic implications is something that backers of the idea point to, any downtown ballpark plan will take considerable time to plan. Among the issues that would have to be considered include assembling a site for the project, coming up with a funding model–and lobbying for public dollars, if that is part of the financing–and planning tasks such as traffic studies and ballpark designs.
In the bigger picture, there might also have to be consideration of whether Jackson County and/or Kansas City officials also have to engage with the Chiefs in discussions about a new or renovated stadium, effectively raising the price of long-term sports facility planning. Although the franchise has made recent upgrades to Arrowhead Stadium, its lease also expires in 2031 and that could prompt discussions about whether another round of major renovations is in order or if it’s time to look at a new NFL facility all together.
Given those factors, it is clear that the Royals will have to undertake a thorough due diligence process before moving forward with a new or renovated ballpark. That is likely why Sherman is showing an early willingness to consider options in downtown Kansas City, as he and the investors in his ownership group will eventually have to map out a bold facility plan.