Editorials

Wherever Chiefs hold future training camps, tax breaks shouldn’t be part of the deal

In the book, “The Game’s Not Over,” author Gregg Easterbrook writes: “There’s no law of nature that says the NFL, or any professional sport, must be publicly subsidized.”

Perhaps Missouri officials skipped over that chapter. In our state, public subsidies for professional sport franchises. abound. The Kansas City Royals and Chiefs, as well as the NHL Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues all benefit from taxpayer dollars.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs are in the final year of a 10-year, $25 million publicly-subsidized agreement to hold preseason training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

While the location of future training camps remains an open question, one thing is certain: Taxpayer money should not be a part of any new deal.

Chiefs officials aren’t saying which cities or universities are bidding to host the team’s training camp.

The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, and Pittsburg State University in Kansas all vied for the Chiefs when the organization decided a decade ago to move training camp from River Falls, Wisconsin.

In the end, Missouri Western won out. And the university and the city have eagerly welcomed the Chiefs.

At least 350,000 visitors have taken in training camp in St. Joseph. This year’s camp is on a record-setting pace for spectators, said Missouri Western Athletic Director Josh Looney.

As part of the state-approved agreement, the Chiefs agreed to contribute $10 million for a $13.5 million indoor football complex at the university in exchange for a $25 million tax credit.

“The last 10 years have had a tremendous impact for us,” Looney said. “It was the start of a transformation. The upgrade put Mo West on the map, facilities-wise.”

The Chiefs aren’t saying much about their future plans, but Missouri Western appears to be a strong contender.

“I think somebody is going to have to come in here and overwhelm us to take it away from St. Joe,” team President Mark Donovan told reporters at the start of this year’s camp. “We’ve had a great relationship here, but those things happen in business, so we’ll see what happens.”

Studies have found little evidence that sports subsidies spur local economic development, income growth or job creation. In St. Joseph, the promised positive economic impact of Chiefs training camp has been limited at best.

Of course, the Chiefs organization is enormously successful — the franchise was valued at $2.1 billion in 2018, according to Forbes. Easterbrook estimates that the team could bring in between $475 and $500 million of revenue this year.

So, why should taxpayers be on the hook for any part of the price tag for Chiefs training camp?

For its part, the team appears poised to at least explore its options.

“Missouri is a very, very big part of the Kansas City Chiefs, and that will factor into our decision,” Donovan said. “But the Kingdom is large, and there are opportunities out there that we haven’t even uncovered yet. It is a little premature to say that we are going one way or the other.”

The Chiefs have every right to seek out the best deal for the organization. But after offering up an overly generous $25 million in tax credits, the state of Missouri should just say no to providing even one dollar more in public subsidies for three weeks’ worth of preseason practices.

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