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KCK’s Unified Government plans to buy T-Bones’ ballpark for $8 million

Updated: 2013-11-19T03:51:45Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

The Unified Government of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County said Monday it is considering an $8 million deal to buy the Village West ballpark that is home to the T-Bones baseball club.

In return, the T-Bones say they would agree to a 20-year lease to stay in Wyandotte County.

The Unified Government said it would use Village West Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, or STAR bonds, to purchase the CommunityAmerica Ballpark from Ehlert Development, which also owns the T-Bones, an independent minor-league team.

The Unified Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing next month on the purchase of the 6,200-seat ballpark.

The Unified Government’s announcement noted that the ball club is successful but that “the burden of (private) stadium ownership would not be viable for the next decade.”

County Administrator Dennis Hays said Monday that the Unified Government earlier had entered an option agreement that allowed the T-Bones to play their 2013 season at the ballpark. He said that deal involved a “retention incentive.” He did not elaborate.

“The investment that we made has been less than the total benefit we received during the 2013 season,” Hays said.

Hays said the specific terms of the lease agreement are still being negotiated but that the outline would be the same model used elsewhere, including at the Truman Sports Complex, where Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium are publicly owned but leased by the privately owned Royals and Chiefs.

Matt Fulks, a spokesman for the T-Bones, said the lease under consideration would be for 20 years.

T-Bones owner Adam Ehlert said in a statement that the purchase agreement “will ensure the stadium will continue to benefit Wyandotte County and the state of Kansas, and the T-Bones are thrilled to keep playing in one of the best ballparks in the American Association.”

The Unified Government said officials had studied the deal for months and concluded it was justified by the positive economic impact the team has had.

More than 265,000 people attended T-Bones games this year, and the team generates more than $5.5 million a year for the local economy, the Unified Government said.

“For the past 12 years, we have been fortunate to have a successful baseball franchise in Kansas City, Kan.,” Mayor Mark Holland said in a statement. “The Kansas City T-Bones are a fun, family-friendly and affordable attraction for visitors and residents. We look forward to our continued partnership with this valued member of our Village West community.”

The Kansas Department of Commerce and Gov. Sam Brownback have endorsed the use of STAR bonds for the sale, according to the Unified Government.

The Unified Government said the purchase of the stadium would not affect its ability to pay off the Village West bonds by 2017, four years ahead of schedule.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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