Ride along World Series parade in 60 seconds
Kansas City Royals owner David Glass wants to sell his team.
The news that a group led by John Sherman, a Kansas City entrepreneur and minority owner of the Cleveland Indians, is in talks to buy the Royals has sent sports fans — and Kansas City officialdom — into a tizzy. Some city leaders are dusting off old blueprints, wondering if a new downtown baseball stadium might be a part of the discussion if the team’s ownership changes.
The Royals’ current lease at Kauffman Stadium expires in 2031. Planning for the next step is now underway.
Let’s start the bidding with this: Kansas Citians should reject any plan that significantly increases public spending for the Royals, either for a new downtown stadium or a ballpark somewhere else.
There are several reasons for such skepticism.
A new stadium would be enormously expensive. A new Royals stadium, particularly a downtown venue, would likely cost $500 million or more.
But it’s more complicated than that because the Kansas City Chiefs would almost certainly ask for a similar amount from the public, either in stadium upgrades or for a new facility of their own. That pushes the price tag closer to $1 billion, not counting interest payments.
That’s $60 million to $70 million a year for 30 years. That’s a big ask of local taxpayers, who just rejected a $30 million annual sales tax for pre-K education.
Would the states help? Unlikely. Missouri lawmakers let the St. Louis Rams leave rather than come up with money for a replacement football stadium. Kansas has budget problems of its own.
Neither state has expanded Medicaid. The outcry over subsidizing stadiums while leaving poor people behind would be thunderous, and rightly so.
Some Kansas Citians think a new stadium in the heart of the city would help downtown. But that isn’t a given. Downtown is pretty healthy now, without baseball. Taxpayers have poured millions into incentives and payments to remake the central city; additional subsidies would be a tough sell.
Kansas Citians want more money spent on public safety and basic services, not a new ballpark.
“We need a new downtown baseball stadium like I need a new Maserati,” then-candidate Quinton Lucas said at the Star Editorial Board’s first mayoral debate. He won by 17 points.
There are no guarantees that a stadium would boost Royals attendance and put more money in the team’s pocket. Winning, it turns out, is more important than a new stadium.
This year, staring down a 100-loss season yet again, the club will be lucky to draw 1.5 million fans. In 2015, when the Royals won the World Series, they drew 2.7 million fans — in the same ballpark.
If a new owner puts a winning product on the field, the fans will return, regardless of where the stadium sits.
We supported the 2006 taxpayer-funded renovations at the Truman Sports Complex (including a rolling roof, which voters rejected). We support the $7.5 million taxpayers send to the complex for maintenance each year. In the context of what other cities spend to subsidize major league sports, those investments are defensible.
But Kansas Citians cannot support millions more for new stadiums, not when trash litters some streets, potholes are an issue and crime ravages the community.
The Royals have struggled on the field, more often than not, during the Glass era. Let’s note that he stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of the team.
Overall, though, the community has been fortunate to have an owner like Glass, who has asked for reasonable public support of his franchise and has never threatened to move somewhere else.
Let’s hope the new owner — John Sherman, or someone else — sees the Royals as a community asset, not a franchise to be dangled in front of other cities. The signs are promising. And to be clear: If the new owners want to build a new stadium privately, without taxpayer subsidies, they of course will be free to do so.
The Royals make Kansas City a better place. Major league baseball here is worth a reasonable subsidy, and the area is providing it. Additional tax money should not be a part of the team’s future.