A new downtown Kansas City ballpark could be in the future of the Kansas City Royals, as team owner John Sherman says the team is embarking on some long-term planning.
Kauffman Stadium, the team’s current home, opened in 1973 and renovated in 2009, is a beloved facility with plenty of charm, but its location outside the city’s core means it makes a limited economic impact overall. And in an era where team owners expect a ballpark to generate revenue outside of game days and baseball teams are becoming de facto real-estate developers (i.e., The Battery and Wrigleyville), it’s no surprise Sherman is positioning the idea of a new downtown Kansas City ballpark as an economic proposal. He outlined his views on the subject at a press conference today introducing JJ Picollo as the team’s new GM and Dayton Moore’s promotion to president of baseball operations. From the Kansas City Star:
“Wherever we play, the criteria will be that the process will result in meaningful community impact that is real and measurable. It will result in economic growth and economic activity that benefits this region also in a real and measurable way….
“We need to have a positive impact in the quality of life for our citizens in Kansas City with a particular focus on those underrepresented parts of our community.
“We’re a little beyond just listening to others’ ideas. We are conducting an internal process to help us evaluate our options for where we play, and one of those options is to play downtown baseball.”
Sherman also expected any new ballpark would contain some element of public funding. Kauffman Stadium was built using public money, and when the ballpark was renovated for the 2009 season, those upgrades (along with renovations to neighboring Arrowhead Stadium) were funded by a 0.375 percent sales tax. As part of the deal, the Royals extended their Kauffman Stadium lease to 2031.
Which is why it’s not a surprise Sherman is talking about a five- to ten-year runway for a new ballpark project. When he closed on a purchase of the team in 2020, Sherman sounded open to the idea of eventually exploring a downtown ballpark, and local business leaders have spoken of the team making a greater economic impact at a downtown ballpark vs. Kauffman Stadium. There will be plenty of opposition to a new downtown ballpark for plenty of reasons; past polls showed opposition to the notion, and there will those arguing against any public money for a new ballpark when there is a perfectly adequate facility in Kauffman Stadium. Plus, big projects take big time, so it could take a decade before a new downtown Kansas City ballpark opens.
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