Oh good god, now Kansas City might try to build a new downtown stadium for the Royals

Kansas City Star columnist Yale Abouhalkah takes advantage of the St. Louis Rams stadium kerfuffle (new article on this from me at Vice later this morning, btw) to rail against the idea of building a new downtown baseball stadium for the Royals. I’m not going to get into the details of his argument here, beyond noting: Apparently it’s necessary to rail against building a new downtown stadium for the Royals, because that’s a thing people are actually talking about:

The leases for the Truman Sports Complex extend into 2031, but some downtown boosters hope to start planning for a new baseball park in the next decade.

Not only do the leases for the Royals and Chiefs go another 16 years, but Jackson County voters just approved a sales tax hike nine years ago for $425 million in renovations to the two stadiums that were supposed to keep the teams happy. Though given that the Royals used a bunch of the money to buy their players iPods and pay their payroll taxes, maybe they skimped on the actual stadium upgrades a bit.
Now, this downtown stadium idea has been around for a while — since before the 2006 renovation vote, in fact — and it’s downtown development interests pushing it, not necessarily the Royals ownership. (And K.C. voters hate the idea, if that counts for anything.) Still, it’s pretty remarkable that spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new stadium when the old one is both beloved and recently renovated at taxpayer expense is being discussed seriously, just so that baseball fans can mill around downtown a bit before getting in their cars and heading home. Old myths die hard.

14 comments on “Oh good god, now Kansas City might try to build a new downtown stadium for the Royals

  1. Group of downtown business and development interests want a stadium to be built downtown, while wanting to shoulder as little of the cost as possible?

    Well that’s me shocked.

  2. Downtown Kansas City is dangerous and depressing. Not much going on down there.

    Look there’s an arena that looks like a UFO. Look there’s some more crushing poverty.

  3. Actually dangerous, or just crushingly poor? I know they get conflated a lot, and sometimes they do go together, but not always. (Cf. Turner Field.)

  4. I hear whinging about a downtown stadium all the time here. KCMO just subsidized another hotel so they wouldn’t miss out on all of that convention business. KCMO is paying millions to service debt on the Power & Light District, but that is ok because “no one would live downtown without it.”

  5. It doesn’t matter that the Sprint Center is tenantless. It turns a healthy profit and has one of the busiest non-sports event schedules of any arena in the country.

  6. Having the baseball park downtown is smart for KC (especially since there is very limited public transportation to the current park, built in the middle of nowhere), but it’s too late now. They just renovated the current park a few years back.
    Public funding to build it is a whole other issue.

    We know the magic words to stop all this nonsense: “Sure, we’ll help build your stadium for you in exchange for a 15% equity stake in the franchise, where do we sign?”

    Regarding the downtown hotel. Every good argument to build it, is a good argument against the 30-year tax abatement the developers received on the land.

  7. I love Kansas City and the ballpark is a fantastic place to watch a game.

    That said, downtown KC’s problem isn’t so much that not enough people go to watch baseball games or drink or attend conventions as not enough companies are located in the city.

    Spending limited tax revenues on vanity projects like baseball stadiums and arenas might put a sheen on the problem and feed the usual narrative of “let’s bring people downtown to eat in restaurants.” Fun for young people, but nearly useless in the bigger scheme of things.

  8. @Mike / @Neil – Downtown Kansas City is neither dangerous or poor. It is however mind numbingly boring because it is almost all commercial and the number of folks who live in the area is shockingly small. I’ve seen more people in a ghost town than I’ve seen in downtown Kansas City after 5pm on a weeknight. Putting a stadium down there would effectively be the same as putting one where it is now. People would drive in, then drive out.

    @Berto – If you want an accessible ballpark in Kansas City downtown isn’t the place to put it, where it is right now would be the place, which was chosen because it is at the intersections of I-435 and I-70 so it gives easy access to the folks from Kansas and Missouri. The only better place would be near the I-435/I-70 Interchange on the Kansas side where Sporting Park and the Kansas Speedway are located. (One could even argue that the Kansas side would be a better location than the Missouri side since it’s closer to Johnson County where the more affluent suburbs are located.)

    Also, the complex is actually served by the city buses in Jackson County, but due to federal regulations preventing express shuttles in Jackson County and the messed up bi-state nature of public transport in Kansas City area there wouldn’t be better service with a downtown stadium because most of the fans would either need to drive or take a private shuttle bus to the stadium (just like they do to the Truman Complex right now).

  9. A downtown area that’s entirely filled with boring commercial buildings? I surely can’t picture that.

  10. Jackson County taxpayers saved over $1 Billion by renovating two well designed stadiums, rather than getting conned into building new stadiums. Until Kansas taxpayers are prepared to share the burden of public funding of the stadiums, they will stay at the Truman Sports Complex well beyond the 2031 lease term.

  11. @jmauro – KCATA game day service via the Royals Express was suspended a while ago. Regular service to the Truman Sports Complex doesn’t run on Sundays.

  12. Do people not see the economic growth KC is missing out on. I said that the day I moved here “they’re missing out on a gold mine”. Restaraunts, small business, and hotels would be booming not to mention it might peak an interest of a team for sprint. You don’t have to be afraid of change.

    • Every economic study that’s ever been done of building new stadiums or arenas (or attracting new teams) has shown that the effect on economic growth is slim to none. You can start with the studies listed here, but there are plenty more where those came from: