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It sure seems like the Royals are getting ready to move downtown

Like it or not, the signs point to the Royals moving downtown.

Kansas City skyline from Crown Center, MO
Kansas City skyline from Crown Center, MO
Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There have been rumors of the Royals being interested in moving to downtown Kansas City ever since John Sherman purchased the club in 2019. At his introductory press conference, Sherman, a longtime downtown supporter, said the decision on whether to push for a downtown stadium once the Kauffman Stadium lease expires in 2031 would be “driven by what’s best for the club, what’s best for the fans and what’s best for the community.”

The chatter around downtown baseball has only intensified since then, with Sherman telling reporters earlier this month that the team was looking at multiple sites with input from architecture firms and economic impact studies. Sherman has stressed that the decision should be based on what has the biggest positive impact on the community.

“The way I look at it is we’re one of only 25 cities in the United States with a Major League Baseball franchise. Four cities have two and there’s one in Canada. So these are really valuable assets for a community. So why shouldn’t we want to optimize the value of this asset on behalf of our community. I’m kind of interested in how the community wants to [optimize it.] A lot of it’s engagement with different parts of the community. We’re doing the work around real estate, sites and architecture and financing and those types of things trying to understand.”

And to Sherman, that seems to suggest building in a higher density area, with spin-off development.

“I get a lot of feedback that The K is great. Look, my first date with my wife was a Royals-Yankees game in the late 70s. I was out there in 1980, 1985, ‘14, ‘15, so I love Kauffman Stadium. It’s a great place to play baseball. If you think about when Ewing Kauffman and Lamar Hunt got together to do that, whenever it was 50 years ago, it was a really innovative concept. For most football teams 3 yards and a cloud of dust was when they were in the infield.”

“But now with baseball, again it’s a great place to play, but we think we can do more. Baseball in higher density areas, if you look around the country in Chicago, Atlanta just did a great project. Atlanta won the World Series, that’s helpful. But in Atlanta I think they had 2.6 million in the ballpark and over 10 million visitors to The Battery. So you can do a lot for a community as far as economic impact. So that’s what we’re studying. We’re looking forward to getting the feedback that will drive those decisions.”

Adding to the momentum towards the Royals moving downtown were comments made this week by Chiefs president Mark Donovan. The Chiefs will have to determine where they will play after the lease for Arrowhead Stadium expires in 2031, and Donovan indicated they have had offers from developers in Kansas.

The comment was almost certainly a negotiating ploy to light a fire under Kansas City towards a new stadium, but moving the Royals to downtown would be ideal for the Chiefs. It would allow them to demolish Kauffman Stadium, and build a new football stadium complete with an entertainment district, party pavilion, hotels, restaurants, bars, stores, potentially even a casino and sportsbook. The template has already been set by several other NFL teams in Dallas and Los Angeles. Sherman told reporters he has had dialogue with the Chiefs about the future of both organizations.

Even mayor Quinton Lucas, who once derided a downtown baseball stadium by saying “We need a new downtown baseball stadium like I need a new Maserati,” has been much more receptive to the idea more recently, depending on how the project is financed. Many city and county leaders have expressed a willingness to work with the teams, with Jackson County Executive and former Royals second baseman Frank White also stressing the same investment impact rhetoric espoused by Sherman.

Where downtown would a new stadium be located? We don’t know. How much would it cost? We don’t know. How much will taxpayers be asked to pay? Probably a lot. There are many unanswered questions.

It is hard to imagine the teams would go this public only to walk it back and stay at their existing stadiums. Sure, they could be trying to leverage the city to get more renovations. But when you look around the leagues of both baseball and football, the Truman Sports Complex model, innovative at the time, has become outdated. The Chiefs and Royals are going to want what other teams in their leagues have - a shiny new toy.

Some of you may be thrilled about a downtown stadium, others may vow to never attend another game if they relocate out of Truman Sports Complex. Polling shows fans are not very receptive to the idea of a new downtown stadium, but that is without any kind of renderings, financing plan, campaigns, or anything beyond an idea.

Regardless of what fans want, it looks like the wheels are turning and the Royals are inching their way out of Kauffman Stadium by the end of 2030.