After team officials made a huge splash last November when announcing their intent for a new Royals ballpark downtown, a lack of communications since has Kansas City-area politicos nervous about what comes next.
The plan, as outlined by owner John Sherman, seemed pretty straightforward: a billion-dollar new ballpark and another billion spent on a multiuse development featuring housing, retail and Class A office space. Public money would be used–via the extension of an existing county sales tax–but the development would be privately financed. This is not an unusual arrangement these days; the Atlanta Braves created Truist Park with Cobb County picking up ballpark costs and the team investing in surrounding development.
But since that initial burst of enthusiasm followed by a series of community meetings, the Royals have gone dark, issuing an occasional update that seems to confuse the situation more than providing a sense that progress is being made. Much of the time in the ballpark-development world radio silence just means sensitive talks are going on behind the scenes — which is definitely the case in Tampa Bay — but in the case of the Royals, local politicos say that there are no talks with the team, no hidden agendas. And this concerns them. From the Kansas City Star:
Privately, people inside those meetings expressed exasperation that while the Royals publicly portray progress on the stadium effort, there’s actually little momentum behind the scenes. Despite months of meetings, public officials still have no sharperpicture of what the team wants.
They wonder: After all this time, do the Royals even know?
“Get us out of purgatory,” said one city official who has been in meetings with the Royals. “We’re all exhausted by this conversation.”
In fact, says president of business operations Brooks Sherman, the team is now focusing on two potential ballpark sites and will be ready to share more information by the end of the summer.
In a way, this is less a story about indecisive MLB teams and more about different planning paces. After that burst of energy, the Royals are back to a more sustainable level of planning: big projects take big time, and with two separate yet related development projects underway, it’s no wonder the team is now taking its time for some careful analysis of numbers. Selling a new downtown or a North Kansas City ballpark as a replacement for Kauffman Stadium will require some serious public relations. And politicians who need to face the public at the polls every two or four years work at a different pace, of course: they’d love to see a quick, politically expedient plan released.
Renderings courtesy Kansas City Royals.
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