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The Royals finally have a real plan for their downtown stadium

I can’t say I’m happy about it but I’m not entirely displeased, either.

General view of the exterior on Opening Day before the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals on April 3, 2006 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Tigers won 3-1.
General view of the exterior on Opening Day before the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals on April 3, 2006 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Tigers won 3-1.
Photo by Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

The Royals and Chiefs made a joint statement today about the stadium situations for both teams in Jackson County. In short, they announced they’d do exactly what we have all known they wanted to do if the county would do what the teams wanted them to do. The Chiefs would like to renovate Arrowhead and stay there. The Royals would like to move downtown. They want the county to extend the 3/8 cents sales tax.

So that’s the part we have known. But, finally, there is more to the announcement. The teams said that if the county votes to approve an extension of the sales tax they will agree to pay for the stadiums’ insurance, which the county currently pays, and they will agree to a language change that would allow the county to spend overages on things other than the stadiums, which currently isn’t allowed.

On its face, it appears both teams have made huge concessions. Say what you will about the hard line taken by Frank White in his negotiations with the Royals, but this sure appears to be a significantly better deal for the county than the Royals originally envisioned. The team is at least putting its money where its mouth is in claiming that White’s insurance numbers were wildly inflated, suggesting that these concessions from both teams would save the county approximately $200 million over the course of the 40-year extension they are asking for.

That said, much like when you see a great deal at the store for something you don’t need, the county could still save even more money if they vote against the proposal. Still, a better deal is a better deal. And for fans who want the teams to stay in Jackson County, this is probably the best deal they can expect. I know some people think I’m biased in this situation since I don’t even live in Kansas City, but I have had time to wonder how I would handle my fandom if the team left. I may not live there anymore, but I grew up in Kansas City and I still identify with it in a lot of ways. I’m not sure my fandom would necessarily transfer if they moved to Nashville or even Charlotte, despite both cities being considerably nearer to my current home.

My complaints continue to be the same as they ever were, so I won’t belabor them too much. Regular citizens in Jackson County who do not attend games will be forced to pay taxes and - unlike public schools - appear to incur no benefit to having those teams nearby if they aren’t going to the games. But, another thing I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about tonight, is the fact that once the Royals move, even if they follow through on all of their promises, things could get considerably worse for local fans.

Parking may not be difficult to find, but it could certainly become more expensive. And, more importantly to my way of thinking, the stadium will almost certainly have a lower capacity than Kauffman. This, added to the fact that the stadium will be brand new, will almost certainly result in drastically increased prices for tickets. I’ve heard countless complaints from local fans about how expensive it is to take their family to a ball game, these days. But smaller stadiums, arenas, and courts with more expensive seats have been the trend across American sports for quite a while now. Watching a live sporting event has been evolving from a family affair to an opportunity for businesses or the wealthy to treat their clients.

Listen, if you want local Major League Baseball in Kansas City, voting yes on this proposal is probably the only way to have that. I doubt the Royals or Chiefs will make significantly more concessions than they already have. Based on my own principles, I’d still vote no because I firmly believe that governments should not be in the business of subsidizing purchases for the ultra-wealthy just because having a local sports team is cool. But I honestly can’t blame anyone who votes yes because keeping the Royals in town is worth not paying a little bit less in taxes than they have been for the last 50 years.

While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly endorse a plan to use taxes to pay for any portion of a sports stadium, I also can’t deny that the Royals have made some concessions here that alleviate some of the largest of my complaints. Almost a year ago now, I wrote about the absolutely terrible off-season the Royals were having that made me question my fandom even before all the losses and shenanigans during the summer. It’s only fair that I offer them praise now. The excellent off-season for the Royals as orchestrated by John Sherman and J.J. Picollo continues, and I couldn’t be happier.