Royals narrow down options for new ballpark site

February 1st, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals held their second stop on their community listening tour surrounding a potential downtown stadium district on Tuesday night, the first of two this week.

Tuesday’s session was held at the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy in the historic 18th and Vine District of Kansas City, right across the street from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Fittingly, NLBM president Bob Kendrick served as the event’s emcee.

“This is an important place to have this dialogue about the future of baseball in Kansas City, while looking back at the history of Kansas City’s rich baseball past,” Kendrick said.

The meeting was similar to the first meeting the Royals held in December; the information was the same but condensed, with a few updates. The Royals used the first portion to present information and the second portion to take questions -- submitted ahead of time and read off cards -- from the audience. There were about 150-200 people in attendance. The Royals are holding a second session at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Midwest Genealogy Center Community Hall in Independence, Mo.

Royals chief operating officer and senior vice president Brooks Sherman said the organization has narrowed down the location of the new ballpark and district to “four or five sites” but wouldn’t offer any specifics as to where those sites are in the downtown area. Several answers to questions asked by the audience were dependent on the location.

“We continue to evaluate four or five sites, but we’re on this listening tour to hear from you as to what may be important,” Brooks Sherman said. “… We look forward to making this determination after the completion of our community listening tour.”

The Royals reiterated that private capital would fund a bulk of the estimated $2 billion project, which includes a $1 billion stadium and a $1 billion surrounding ballpark district. That district would include housing, hotels, offices, retail and restaurants.

Chairman and CEO John Sherman said the ownership group would be investing more than $1 billion in the project, including the entire surrounding district.

“The ownership of the Kansas City Royals will be the major investor in this project,” Sherman said. “We expect to invest in excess of $1 billion in the district and the ballpark. We’ll forge a public-private partnership that will provide unprecedented public benefits. Safe, walkable neighborhoods. More public transportation options. Jobs.

“We also understand the importance of a community benefit agreement, and we’re committed to establishing one.”

Sherman underscored again that the team would not seek an increase in payment from Jackson County taxpayers, who currently pay three-eighths-of-one-cent sales tax for the Truman Sports Complex, where Kauffman Stadium and the Chiefs’ GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium reside.

He did say he wants this project to be a private-public partnership when an audience member asked why the ownership group can’t foot the bill.

“We feel strongly about it being a public-private partnership to make sure that this team thrives for the next 50 years, for us to create a world-class ballpark that creates economic activity 365 days a year and delivers significant public benefit,” Sherman said. “So we feel like we can do much more together than we can do for ourselves, and that’s why we’re asking for the public to be our partner.”

The Royals will also be seeking funds from the city and state “to ensure the infrastructure that surrounds the stadium and district is able to support it for decades to come,” Brooks Sherman said.

“By infrastructure, we’re referring to things like streets, curbs, sidewalks, highway modifications, on- and off-ramps for proper traffic management -- which is important for any project -- waterway lines, sewer systems, utilities, green spaces for parks and trails. That’s how we see the city and state playing a key role. The federal government may play a role as well, as we consider some creative ideas to build a community despite the interstates that are in and around downtown.”

What those funds look like is still to be determined; Sherman said the team is in the early discussion stages with the city.

Several questions centered around a concern for parking at a downtown stadium rather than the vast lots around Kauffman Stadium, and Sherman reiterated that the issue remains in all of the Royals’ plans.

The Royals remain light on key details of the project, including the location, timeline and exactly what public contribution would be on the ballot for voters to approve, which could come as early as August.

They also remain committed to establishing a community benefits agreement but asked the community to “be patient with us, because that CBA agreement will be dependent on our new home, the location and destination of the ballpark district,” Sarah Tourville, the Royals' chief revenue and innovation officer, said.

“We will continue to make ourselves available, both in public meetings like this and in small groups and private settings, to listen and learn,” Tourville continued. “And we will utilize our public, political, civic and community leaders to help us best craft an agreement that appeases the majority of the public.”

The Royals have a ballpark district website with more information on the team’s vision, including the presentations shared at each meeting centered around the current state of The K, the design of a potential new ballpark and its district, as well as the economic benefits the team sees in building a new home.

“Three simple truths will guide this diligent, deliberate and transparent process that we’re in the middle of,” John Sherman said. “Wherever we play baseball, we’ll benchmark our efforts against three critical matters. One, generating community impact that’s real and measurable. Two, be a catalyst for economic growth that’s also real and measurable. And we’re committed to improve the quality of life in our region with a dedicated focus on underrepresented members of our community -- also in a real and measurable way."