Royals hone in on sites for downtown ballpark

March 30th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals open the 2023 season on Thursday with their eyes on the future, a young core in place ready to take the next step at the Major League level. Part of that future, a few years down the road at least, is a new downtown stadium and neighboring ballpark district.

Royals owner and CEO John Sherman said on Wednesday the club’s ownership group is getting closer to deciding a site location for a new ballpark and having that vision presented to taxpayers on a ballot. Sherman confirmed two site considerations that the Kansas City Star reported earlier this week, including an area in the East Village and the former Kansas City Star printing pavilion on McGee Street, closer to T-Mobile Center and the bars and restaurants within the Power and Light District.

“I would confirm that East Village, we’ve talked about,” Sherman said before the Royals’ workout at Kauffman Stadium. “We’ve probably done the most work on that site. And then the other site was The Star building, we’ve certainly heard from them. The owners of that property have some creative ideas. There are some challenges. I wouldn’t say it’s been eliminated, but it’s a site that’s got some challenges.”

The Star’s former printing building, a glass structure that can be seen from Interstate 670, is currently owned by the Privitera family. The attraction is the location, but among the challenges is land acquisition surrounding the property.

“And being able to get enough land to develop,” Sherman said. “That would be a really cool place to have a stadium right next to Power and Light and T-Mobile Center. You have one owner of The Star building itself, but you have a lot of things around it that wouldn’t be as efficient to buy the land.”

The Royals announced their intention to move their stadium downtown in a letter Sherman addressed to fans last November. Since then, they’ve held public meetings to discuss their vision and hear questions, concerns and suggestions from community members.

The club has narrowed its site locations from 14 to four or five, including the two confirmed on Wednesday, but Sherman wouldn’t elaborate on a timeline for deciding on and releasing the site.

“It’s a complicated process,” Sherman said. “It’s a huge decision. I look at it as maybe the most important decision that we’ll make while we have the privilege of stewarding this team. So we want to do it right.

“There are a lot of things with the lease detail. The Chiefs are involved in that. We’re having discussions right now with political leaders in Jackson County, executives and legislators, about what the ballot language would be. We’re also conducting polling in Jackson County and Kansas City. And the financing plan.”

The Royals are seeking a public-private partnership for the estimated $2 billion project, but have said they will ask for an extension to the current three-eights-of-a-cent sales tax in Jackson County, which was passed in 2006 to fund renovations for Kauffman Stadium and GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. The Royals’ lease at The K runs through the end of the 2030 season.

The earliest any ballot measure could appear in Jackson County is Aug. 8, but Sherman mentioned April 2024 as a possibility. The Royals are targeting 2027 or ’28 to be in the new ballpark.

“When you ask the simple question of an extension of the tax, it polls really well,” Sherman said. “We’d just be redeploying the same money that we’re using to maintain old buildings. I love Kauffman Stadium, but this is an old building. Redeploying that capital into doing something transformational in Kansas City, I feel like that’s a pretty good choice.

"Now, it’s a public-private partnership. It’s the taxpayers’ decision, and they’re going to have to believe that we’re delivering a public benefit exchange.”

Royals ownership might be thinking about where they’ll be at the end of the decade, but Kauffman Stadium is their home at least for the next few seasons. And Sherman said he’s focused on seeing the team’s progression this year, starting on Thursday against the Twins, under general manager J.J. Picollo and manager Matt Quatraro.

“I feel like the changes we made at the end of last season are yielding fruit,” Sherman said. “I think there’s more to come. The culture that Q and his team, J.J. and his staff, have established, I think the energy in Surprise [Ariz.] was palpable.”