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Kansas gov. signs effort to entice Chiefs, Royals

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Published in Baseball
Friday, 21 June 2024 11:35

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed legislation Friday enabling the state to lure the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Major League Baseball's Royals away from neighboring Missouri by helping the teams pay for new stadiums.

Kelly's action came three days after the Republican-led Legislature approved the measure with bipartisan supermajorities -- an unusually quick turnaround that signals how urgently Kansas officials consider making the offers.

Missouri officials have argued that discussions about building new stadiums are still in the early stages. They said construction of a new one typically takes about three years and pointed out that the lease on the existing complex that includes the teams' side-by-side stadiums doesn't end until January 2031.

The measure Kelly signed takes effect July 1 and will allow bonds to cover 70% of a new stadium's cost. Kansas would have 30 years to pay them off with revenues from sports betting, state lottery ticket sales, and new sales and alcohol taxes generated in the area around each proposed stadium.

The Kansas-Missouri border splits the 2.3 million-resident Kansas City area, with about 60% of the people living on the Missouri side.

Kansas officials began working on the legislation after voters on the Missouri side of the metropolitan area refused in April to continue a sales tax used to keep up the existing stadium complex. The Royals outlined a plan in February to build a $2 billion-plus ballpark in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, that would be ready for the start of the 2028 season while the Chiefs were planning an $800 million renovation of their existing home.

Attorneys for the teams told Kansas legislators that they needed to make decisions about the future soon for new stadiums to be ready on time. Some critics suggested the teams are pitting the two states against each other for the biggest government subsidies possible.

"The Chiefs and the Royals are pretty much using us," said Kansas state Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Democrat from the Kansas City area who voted against the bill.

Supporters of bringing the teams to Kansas warned that if neither state acts quickly enough, one or both teams could leave for another community entirely. Several economists who have studied professional sports were skeptical that a move would make financial sense for either a team or a new host city, and both the NFL and MLB require a supermajority of owners to approve franchise moves.

The plan had support from throughout Kansas, including about half of the lawmakers from western Kansas, 200 miles away from any new stadium.

Kansas lawmakers approved the stadium financing plan during a single-day special session Tuesday. Although the financing law doesn't specifically name the Chiefs or the Royals, it is limited to stadiums for NFL and MLB teams "in any state adjacent to Kansas."

"It's fairly clearly about how you poach," Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said during a news conference after Kansas lawmakers approved the measure. He added that his city would "lay out a good offer" to keep both teams in town and that the teams "are in an exceptional leverage position."

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