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Jackson County voters will be asked to approve downtown Kansas City Royals ballpark tax

The Jackson County Legislature bypassed the advice of County Executive Frank White and voted 8-1 to authorize an April ballot question that would ask voters to extend a 3/8th-cent sales tax to help fund a new downtown Kansas City Royals ballpark.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to a new downtown Kansas City Royals ballpark and a renovation of Arrowhead Stadium for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Royals have not yet decided on a ballpark site, though the team is committing to Jackson County (as has the Chiefs) and picked up additional costs of running the ballpark, including insurance payments. There’s no ballpark budget and no lease. Both teams have committed to negotiating a Community Benefits Agreement as part of a funding deal–something pushed by the Good Jobs and Affordable Housing for All coalition–and the Legislature felt comfortable enough to approve the ballot measure, despite White’s opposition.

The argument from county executive White–the former Royal–is that the Legislature should wait four more days to allow him to extract more concessions from the teams, including a demand to cover the cost of demolishing Kauffman Stadium and a commitment from the teams to keep training facilities in Jackson County. And placing the issue on the ballot doesn’t preclude those sorts of discussions in the lee negotiations; White’s larger point is that placing the issue on the ballot takes away some leverage from the county.

But time is of the essence, with a January 20 deadline to place the question on an April ballot. And there were plenty of conditions, per the Kansas City Star:

While it wasn’t discussed publicly at the meeting, legislator Jalen Anderson issued a statement Monday evening saying that approval of the ballot measure was contingent upon the teams executing term sheets, setting forth the terms of the leases with the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority by Jan. 20, three days before the deadline to put something on the April ballot.

If that doesn’t happen, he said, “the legislature will move to withdraw the ordinance.” Or members will refuse to override any veto that White might have issued by then.

“Further, the teams must commit to signing leases by March 1st so that the public knows well ahead of the election what all parties’ representations, warranties, and obligations are,” Anderson said.

The ballot would authorize Jackson County to extend a 3/8th-cent sales tax originally issued to back bonding for Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium renovations. No new taxing is involved.

Rendering courtesy Kansas City Royals.

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