After some last-minute campaigning by baseball Hall of Famer George Brett, Negro League great Buck O’Neil, NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen and Oscar winner Chris Cooper, the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals got their $425 million in stadium renovation subsidies yesterday, winning a public referendum by a 53-47% margin. An accompanying ballot measure to build a $200 million rolling roof that could cover either stadium failed by a 51-49% margin.
Jackson County, Missouri will now raise sales taxes by 0.375% for the next 25 years, funneling the money to the two teams, mostly so that they can expand concessions areas at Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums; all the new revenues from the expansion will go to the teams. Depending on your perspective, the vote marked “a great day for Kansas City” (Royals owner David “it depends what you mean by ‘child labor’” Glass), or “a quarter of a loaf” (opposition organizer Richard Tolbert).
Most of all, the whole Kansas City stadium controversy shows the danger of team leases requiring “state-of-the-art” stadiums, which is what allowed the two teams to threaten to bolt the region if the public didn’t front the money for upgrades. As part of the renovation agreement, the Chiefs and Royals are now locked into their homes for another 25 years – one hopes that this time, Jackson County negotiators were smart enough not to give them another “state of the art” clause that could let them play the move-threat game again before 2031.