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A timeline of what’s happened so far in the Royals new stadium push

It’s been a long and winding road

Apr 26, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general overall aerial view of Kauffman Stadium (bottom) and Arrowhead Stadium at the Truman Sports Complex.
Apr 26, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general overall aerial view of Kauffman Stadium (bottom) and Arrowhead Stadium at the Truman Sports Complex.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Long discussed as a fun “what if” scenario in bars and around water coolers throughout the Kansas City metro area, the idea of a Kansas City Royals downtown stadium is slowly becoming reality. Over the last few years, there’s been so much information doled out piecemeal as an immense amount of work gets done behind the scenes.

To help clarify what has been a confusing and drawn-out process, we’ve put together this timeline of what has happened so far in the Royals push for a new stadium. Not every piece has been included in this list—but we’ve got the major plot points going on. Enjoy.

Royals new stadium timeline

September 2021: Owner John Sherman first floats the idea of a downtown stadium

In the same press conference in which Royals majority owner John Sherman introduced the promotions of Dayton Moore and JJ Picollo, Sherman discussed that the Royals would be considering a downtown stadium as they look to the future:

“We’re in a good spot here at Truman Sports Complex, but we need to start thinking about our plans for our stadium over the next five to 10 years...We’re a little beyond just listening to others’ ideas. We are conducting an internal process to help us evaluate our options for where we play, and one of those options is to play downtown baseball.”

This was the first time that Sherman, whose ownership group took over from David Glass in August of 2019, specifically stated that the Royals could be pursuing a downtown stadium—though plenty had speculated such a move was on its way as the Kauffman Stadium lease entered its final decade.

May 2022: East Village and 18th & Vine site become early favorites

While potential sites for a hypothetical downtown stadium had been discussed off and on over the years, Sherman’s announcement corresponded with renewed interest in where Kauffman Stadium’s replacement might end up. Two sites emerged quickly: the East Village site, located between 8th Street and 12th Street just a few blocks from City Hall, and a Jazz District site, located near the MLB Urban Youth Academy around 18th and Vine Streets.

Both sites have pluses and minuses, but both sites did offer plenty of size and space.

November 2022: Sherman reveals $2 billion price tag of stadium and ballpark village

In an open letter to Royals fans everywhere, Sherman and the Royals revealed many key details about the project. The Royals envisioned a “mixture of public and private investment” that would result in a ballpark and a new shiny ballpark village a la The Battery in Atlanta.

December 2022: Royals reveal additional details, launch website, and start listening tour

Less than a month after Sherman’s first open letter, the Royals embarked on a listening tour at varying community locales and with varying members of the Royals organization in tow. Sherman promised that the team would remain in the Kansas City area, revealed that they had considered 14 sites for the new stadium, and outlined a 50/50 split for the $2 billion price tag—$1 billion for the stadium, $1 billion for the surrounding development.

The Royals also launched a website with additional details about the project.

March 2023: Kansas City Star site and Clay County site emerge as possibilities

With the East Village site still reportedly leading as the team’s favorite, proponents of two additional prominent sites argued for theirs as the best location as home of the Royals.

The owners of the former Kansas City Star printing building at 16th and McGee argued for their Crossroads site as a central location for the next Royals stadium. It owned arguably the best location of the three, being just a few blocks away from the Power & Light District and many area bars and restaurants.

The other site that emerged was in Clay County, north of the river in North Kansas City. Such a site would involve an entirely different financing setup than the potential extension of the 3/8 cents sales tax that seemed likely for a Jackson County site.

May 2023: Clay County officials pen letter arguing for the Northland site

Clay County continued to make its stadium push. In May, three major Clay County officials penned an open letter of their own in an argument for their vision. Their aim: Kansas City’s own “Wrigleyville” styled area.

June 2023: Frustrations bubble as the process encounters gridlock

In a fascinating piece from the Kansas City Star, writers Sam McDowell and Kevin Hardy combined to write a piece about the “faltering push for a downtown stadium.” By this point, half a year had passed since Sherman’s open letter that revealed the first true details about the project. But no site had been landed on, and officials with Jackson County and the Royals were pointing fingers at each other.

Privately, people inside those meetings expressed exasperation that while the Royals publicly portray progress on the stadium effort, there’s actually little momentum behind the scenes. Despite months of meetings, public officials still have no sharper picture of what the team wants. They wonder: After all this time, do the Royals even know?

“Get us out of purgatory,” said one city official who has been in meetings with the Royals. “We’re all exhausted by this conversation.”

The Royals insist they are not hiding specific details, but rather have not settled on them. In an interview with The Star on Tuesday, team president of business operations Brooks Sherman said the team has narrowed to two possible sites and is on course to announce its choice by the end of the summer. “We want to get it right,” he said, “so we don’t think it’s right that we should rush into anything.”

July 2023: Royals narrow down locations and pledge to reveal more details soon

Perhaps in response to growing frustrations that continued to bubble up in the media, Sherman released his second open letter. In this statement, the Royals promised to reveal more information within 30 days about two sites: one in Jackson County and one in Clay County.

Additionally, the Royals also set a date by which the team would have a finalized site: “late September.” The Royals would miss this self-imposed deadline.

July 2023: Chiefs state preference to remain at Arrowhead

Like with Kauffman Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium’s lease will end at the same time: 2031. Whether the Kansas City Chiefs were planning on staying or looking to open a new home elsewhere was always going to be a big deal. In July, the Chiefs stated their preference to remain at and update Arrowhead. Clark Hunt called it “our number one priority” to do so, although he hedged a bit to crack open the future door:

Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt says the team has not yet completed its study examining the best options for a home base when the Arrowhead Stadium lease expires in January 2031. But he has a personal preference: to renovate Arrowhead Stadium in its current location.

“That would be our No. 1 priority,” Hunt said Friday. “We’re going to evaluate all our options, obviously. We’ve got to figure out what’s best for the franchise, what’s best for the fan base.”

President Mark Donovan was even more straightforward, but also pointed out that the team expected to spend some cash to maintain it further into this century:

“If everything plays out the way we think it’s going to play out, our preference is to upgrade and renovate GEHA Field at Arrowhead,” Donovan said.

“...The good news is we think the building itself is actually structurally pretty sound. Having said that, it’s going to take a significant annual investment to keep that building structurally sound.”

August 2023: Sherman discusses details at length with The Kansas City Star

In an interview with Sam McDowell and Vahe Gregorian, Sherman directly answered questions posed to him by the two Star journalists. Sherman discusses nitty gritty details and touches on community benefits, lease agreements, how the stadium and the ballpark village play into baseball’s economic landscape, and more.

Sherman: I would just say that this really is bigger than baseball. It’s about the community. We’d love to have all of them come out to a game. I think if we get them out to a game, they might like it a little bit more. But this is about doing something special for a community, creating that vibrancy. You know it’s not just 81 nights a year. … We want 365 days a year of activation and both the community benefits and the economic activity that I think helps all of us long term….

I understand that. And it’s not just non-baseball fans. I think you have baseball fans that look at projects like this and they feel like they don’t have access, or they get left behind. So I hope that we can do things to create more opportunities for more people for access and other things. But I also hope that people take pride in their region. … I think we have great momentum and, again, all of those things: the World Cup and the NFL Draft, the Chiefs and the Royals. I hope that we can all be proud of that and that makes us feel better as a community in that there’s something in it for everybody. It’s hard to get specific about that.

August 2023: Royals release renderings of East Village and Northland sites

And now there were two: in late August, the Royals held a press conference to release renderings and further discuss the seemingly two final sites, one in the East Village and one in North Kansas City. The Royals publicly stated that the team would be looking to move into their shiny new home on Opening Day 2028.

October 2023: Frank White and Royals have a tiff about the true cost of the stadium

Frank White played 18 seasons with the Royals from 1973 through 1990 and later became a color commentator alongside Ryan Lefebvre for four seasons from 2008 through 2011. White did not leave on his own accord and it seems that the Royals fired him for being critical of the team.

This context is important because White is the Jackson County Executive, a role he has kept since 2016. White’s position gives him a huge amount of power in the stadium situation, and whatever hostility there still exists between White and the Royals organization has outsized consequences.

In October, news broke from White’s camp that they were calculating the true cost of a new stadium build to be double or triple the amount claimed by the Royals. The Royals responded in kind by saying, essentially, “Frank White doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

November 2023: Previously dead KC Star building site back on the table

One year after Sherman penned his first open letter, three months after releasing renderings of the seeming final two potential sites, two months after the Royals missed their self-imposed deadline to announce their site, news broke that the Royals were now seriously considering the KC Star building site:

The Royals have spent recent weeks quietly analyzing the possibility of a ballpark location along downtown Kansas City’s south loop after they were approached once more about the concept, sources told The Star. The area, which currently includes the former KC Star printing press pavilion at 1601 McGee Street, is a site that was originally pitched to the team at least eight months ago. And rejected. Initially. But evidently not permanently.

The site would lessen the need for a ballpark village with the Power and Light District nearby, but questions remain about land assemblage.

January 2024: Jackson County Legislature approves ballot measure

Now in our fourth year of new stadium discussions, the Royals and the Chiefs jointly announced the most concrete information thus far. In—you guessed it, an open letter—the Royals and Chiefs stated a ballot measure approving a 40-year extension of the 3/8 cent sales tax would be up for a vote in April. Additionally, the teams announced $200 million in concessions to the county, and promised that, should the ballot measure pass, both teams would remain in Jackson County.

The Jackson County Legislature approved putting the measure before voters in an 8-1 vote on Monday, but Frank White has ten days to veto the measure, which would require the Legislature to override his veto with six votes. The deadline to get a measure on an April ballot is January 23.

While such a measure approval would officially rule out the Clay County site, the Royals have yet to announce which Jackson County site would be the new home of the stadium, although Clay County Commissioner Jason Withington says the Royals told him they are putting “all their chips” in on the printing press site.