Missouri voters reject stadium tax for Royals and Chiefs

Kansas City, Mo. — The future of the Royals and Chiefs in Kansas City was thrown into question Tuesday night when residents of Jackson County, Missouri, voted down a sales tax measure that would have helped fund a new downtown ballpark. Major renovation of Arrowhead Stadium.

Royals owner John Sherman and Chiefs president Mark Donovan agreed long before the final tally that the effort would fail. More than 58% of voters ultimately rejected the plan, which would have replaced three-eighths of the one-cent sales tax that has paid for the maintenance of the Truman Sports Complex, which has owned Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums for more than 50 years. With the same tax in effect for the next 40 years.

The Royals, who committed at least $1 billion to the franchise for their project, wanted to use their share of the tax revenue to fund the more than $2 billion ballpark district. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs, who paid $300 million in private money, would have used their share as part of an $800 million renovation of Arrowhead Stadium.

“We are very disappointed because we are firm in our belief that Jackson County is the best with the Chiefs and Royals,” Sherman said. “As someone with deep roots in this city, a dedicated fan and season-ticket holder for both of these teams, he now leads a remarkable franchise.”

The Chiefs will “do what's in the best interest of our fans and our organization as we move forward,” Donovan said.

That could mean a number of things: mayors could try again with a reworking plan more palatable to voters, change their entire fiscal approach to include more private investment, or ask for offers from competing cities and states — Kansas, right across the state. Westward — it will provide the public funding they desire.

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“We've been talking a lot about the democratic process. We respect the process,” Donovan said. “We feel we present a great opportunity for Jackson County. We are ready to extend the long-standing partnership the teams have enjoyed with this county.”

The current lease at the Truman Sports Complex runs through Jan. 31, 2031 to last. Although Sherman has said the Royals won't play at Kauffman Stadium beyond the 2030 season, the Chiefs hope to stay at Arrowhead Stadium.

The tax — or, more precisely, the stadium plans — received significant public pushback from the start, with teams struggling to put concrete plans before voters and accused of a lack of transparency throughout the process.

Last fall, the Royals unveiled two potential locations for their ballpark district, one on the eastern edge of downtown and the other across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. But the self-imposed deadline to finalize their location passed without a plan, and in February, they finally announced that they had scrapped both ideas and chosen a different city.

The new neighborhood, called Crossroads, has a vibrant arts and restaurant scene and is just steps away from T-Mobile Center and the bustling Power & Light entertainment district. It is near the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the 18th & Vine District, home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

But even then, plans remained vague. Recent ballpark renderings were rendered obsolete last week when the Royals accepted a request from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to keep a large street that was part of the stadium track open; Lucas did not approve the tax move until the Royals agreed to the change.

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“I think everybody has the same mixed feelings,” said Deirdre Chastain, a voter from Independence, Missouri, who remembers attending games downtown at Old Municipal Stadium when the Royals played from 1969 to 1972.

“We don't mind paying the three-eighth-cent sales tax. I think the problem is keeping the stadium where it is. We're saying don't destroy the businesses that have been established there for years.”

The club has not reached sales agreements with several landowners at Crossroads, and other businesses have expressed concerns about traffic, congestion and parking in an already thriving residential area.

Royals executive vice president Sarah Tourville said the goal is to visit the stadium for Opening Day in 2028.

The Royals moved from Municipal Stadium to Kauffman Stadium in 1973 and extensively renovated the ballpark from 2009 to 2012. Arrowhead Stadium was built alongside Kauffman Stadium and renovated at the same time.

While the Royals insist on playing in a new ballpark, the Chiefs want to see renovations that touch every aspect of their 52-year-old building, from the bowl seats to the luxury amenities and tailgating scene.

“We would not be willing to sign another 25-year lease without funding to properly renovate and remodel the stadium,” said Chiefs president Clark Hunt, whose father, Lamar Hunt, helped build the existing stadiums before Tuesday's vote. “The funding puzzle is very important to us to make sure we have enough funds to do everything we've outlined.”

The Chiefs hoped their success, including three Super Bowl titles in the past five years, would sway voters in their favor.

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“What my dad loved about the stadium was the connection the team had with our fan base,” Hunt said. “He loved this building for what it meant to fans, and we still believe it is one of the best stadiums in the National Football League and a bucket-list destination for fans across the NFL.”

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