Kansas legislature passes bill that could fund new Royals stadium

June 19th, 2024

The Kansas legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that could bring the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals west of the state line border as both teams explore options for new stadiums in the coming years.

The legislation authorizes Kansas to potentially issue Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) bonds to pay for up to 70% of the cost of stadiums for one or both teams, which is up from the 50% in current law. The debt would be repaid over 30 years by a combination of sales tax revenue from the stadiums and surrounding development, sports wagering revenue and lottery revenue.

A Chiefs or Royals stadium -- or both -- would mark the largest STAR bond project ever.

The Kansas House and Senate both passed the bill Tuesday, and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to sign it or allow it to become law without her signature.

Both the Royals and Chiefs expressed their support for the legislation and the options it may provide. It is far from a sure thing that either team would make the move; the legislation simply allows more conversations to be had about Kansas locations.

“We’re grateful to the Kansas Legislature for today’s bipartisan action that gives the state a pragmatic tool in which to achieve its economic development goals,” the Royals said in a statement Tuesday. “The Kansas City Royals look forward to additional conversations as we evaluate where we will play baseball in the future. We will always prioritize the best interests of our fans, associates and taxpayers in this process.”

“We appreciate that leaders in the State of Kansas proactively reached out to us for input on the proposed STAR Bond legislation,” the Chiefs’ statement said. “We support their efforts to expand the existing program and congratulate them on passing the legislation in special session. We look forward to exploring the options this legislation may provide.”

The legislation came after Jackson County voters in Missouri rejected a stadium sales tax in an April vote that would have moved the Royals to downtown Kansas City and kept them in the county.

Both the Royals and Chiefs expressed that they would explore all options after the stadium tax vote failed, and now with this legislation, Kansas becomes a real option. It allows the teams to begin exploring locations as they determine the next moves.

Missouri leaders said Tuesday that they hope to continue negotiations with the teams to keep them in the state.

“Kansas City and the State of Missouri will continue their ongoing negotiations with team leaders to keep the teams in the city and state that have welcomed, funded and supported the success of both teams since the 1960s,” Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas said. “Today’s vote regrettably restarts the Missouri-Kansas incentive border war, creating leverage for the teams, but injecting even greater uncertainty into the regional stadium conversation. The vote provides only a speculative ability to sell bonds untethered to private funding plans, costs, locations or discussion of the unknown consequences for taxpayers and existing businesses. We remain in the first quarter of the Kansas City stadium discussion.”

The teams’ leases at the Truman Sports Complex -- where Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium currently reside -- do not expire until 2031, so they will keep playing there for the next several years. The Royals had hoped to open their new downtown ballpark by Opening Day 2028.

“The bipartisan effort to invite the Chiefs and Royals to Kansas shows we're all-in on keeping our beloved teams in the Kansas City metro,” Kelly said. “Kansas now has the opportunity to become a professional sports powerhouse with the Chiefs and Royals potentially joining Sporting KC as major league attractions, all with robust, revenue-generating entertainment districts surrounding them providing new jobs, new visitors and new revenues that boost the Kansas economy."