Missouri voters reject stadium tax on royals and leaders

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The future of the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs was thrown into question Tuesday night when residents of Missouri's Jackson County voted resoundingly against a sales tax measure that would have helped fund a new downtown football stadium alongside With major renovations to Arrowhead Stadium.

Royals owner John Sherman and Chiefs president Mark Donovan admitted long before the final tally that the initiative would fail. More than 58% of voters ultimately rejected the plan, which would have replaced the three-eighths cent sales tax that paid for the upkeep of the Truman Sports Complex — the home for more than 50 years of Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums — with a similar tax that would have applied over the past 40 years. Next year.

The Royals, who had pledged at least $1 billion in equity for their project, wanted to use their share of tax revenues to help fund a ballpark district worth more than $2 billion. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs, who pledged $300 million in private money, would have used their stake as part of an $800 million overhaul of Arrowhead Stadium.

“We are deeply disappointed because we are steadfast in our belief that Jackson County is better with the Chiefs and the Royals,” Sherman said. “As someone with deep roots in this city, who has been a loyal fan and season ticket holder of both teams, and who now leads a great ownership group.”

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

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That could mean many things: Leaders could try again with a reworked plan that's more palatable to voters, change their financing approach entirely to include more private investment or listen to pitches from competing cities and states — like Kansas, just across the state line . To the west – this would provide the public funding they desired.

“We've talked a lot about the democratic process. We respect the process,” Donovan said. “We feel we put on the best show for Jackson County. We are ready to expand the long-standing partnership the teams have had with this county.”

The current lease at Truman Sports Complex runs through Jan. 31, 2031. While Sherman said the Royals will not play at Kauffman Stadium after the 2030 season, the Chiefs hope to remain at Arrowhead Stadium.

The tax – or more accurately the stadium plans – has received significant public opposition almost from the beginning, when teams struggled to put concrete plans in front of voters and were accused of a lack of transparency throughout the process.

Last fall, the Royals unveiled two potential locations for their ballpark, one on the eastern edge of downtown and the other across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. But their self-imposed deadline to finish their location passed without a plan, and in February, they finally announced they were scrapping both concepts and opting for a different location downtown.

The new area, known as Crossroads, has a vibrant arts and restaurant scene, and is located just blocks from the T-Mobile Center and the bustling Power & Light entertainment district. It is also close to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the 18th & Vine area, which is home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

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But even then, the plans remained vague. The latest stadium designs became obsolete just last week when the Royals responded to Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas' request that Main Street that would have been part of the stadium's footprint remain open. Lucas did not support the tax initiative until the royals agreed to the change.

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

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

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

The goal is to move into the stadium on Opening Day in 2028, Royals executive vice president Sarah Turvill said.

The Royals moved from Municipal Stadium to Kauffman Stadium in 1973 and extensively renovated the stadium from 2009 to 2012. Arrowhead Stadium was built next to Kauffman Stadium and was also renovated around the same time.

While the Royals insist on playing in a new ballpark, the Chiefs want to stay put with a renovation that would touch every aspect of the 52-year-old building, from the seating bowl to the luxury amenities to the backstage landscape.

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

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

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

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