Missouri governor says new public aid plan in the works for Chiefs, Royals stadiums

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday that he expects the state to put together an aid plan by the end of the year to try to keep the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals from being lured across state lines to new stadiums in Kansas.

Missouri’s renewed efforts come after Kansas approved a plan last week that would finance up to 70% of the cost of new stadiums for the professional football and baseball teams.

“We’re going to make sure that we put the best business deal we can on the line,” Parson told reporters while hosting the Chiefs’ two most recent Super Bowl trophies at the Capitol, where fans lined up for photos.

“Look, I can’t blame Kansas for trying,” Parson added. “You know, if I was probably sitting there, I’d be doing the same thing. But at the end of the day, we’re going to be competitive.”

The Chiefs and Royals have played for over 50 years in side-by-side stadiums built in eastern Kansas City, drawing fans from both states in the split metropolitan area. Their stadium leases run until 2031. But Royals owner John Sherman has said the team won’t play at Kauffman Stadium beyond the 2030 season, expressing preference for a new downtown stadium.

Questions about the teams’ future intensified after Jackson County, Missouri, voters in April rejected a sales tax that would have helped fund a more than $2 billion downtown ballpark district for the Royals and an $800 million renovation of the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium.

The tax plan faced several headwinds. Some Royals fans preferred the teams’ current site. Others opposed the tax. And still others had concerns about the new stadium plans, which changed just weeks ahead of the vote.

The emergence of Kansas as an alternative raised the stakes for Missouri officials and repeated a common pattern among professional sports teams, which often leverage one site against another in an effort to get the greatest public subsidies for new or improved stadiums.

Sports teams are pushing a new wave of stadium construction across the U.S., going beyond basic repairs to derive fresh revenue from luxury suites, dining, shopping and other developments surrounding their stadiums.

On Monday, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina, approved public funds to help fuel an $800 million renovation of the Carolina Panthers’ football stadium. On Tuesday, the city of Jacksonville, Florida, approved a $1.25 billion stadium renovation plan for the NFL’s Jaguars that splits the cost between the city and team.

Many economists assert that while stadiums may boost tax revenue in their immediate area, they tend to shift consumer spending away from other entertainment and seldom generate enough new economic activity to offset all the public subsidies.

Parson said “the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals are big business,” comparing them to large companies that have received public aid such as Boeing, Ford and General Motors. But he added that any deal “has to work out on paper, where it’s going to be beneficial to the taxpayers of Missouri.”

“I think by the end of this year, we’re going to have something in place” to propose for the stadiums, Parson said.

Missouri’s still undefined plan likely would require legislative approval, but Parson said he doesn’t anticipate calling a special legislative session before his term ends in January. That means any plan developed by Parson’s administration in partnership with Kansas City area officials also would need the support of the next governor and a new slate of lawmakers.

Now that Kansas has enacted a financing law, discussions between the sports teams and the Kansas Department of Commerce could start at any time, but the agency has no timeline for finishing a deal, spokesperson Patrick Lowry said Thursday.

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Associated Press writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, contributed to this report.

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