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Where the Chiefs and Royals stand on potential stadium vote

Kansas City’s biggest sports teams are working out a new deal with their landlord.

NFL: Arrowhead Stadium Views Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This week, there's been a lot of news about the negotiations between Kansas City's two biggest professional sports teams and their landlord: the Jackson County legislature.

Here's what we know:

Frank White's veto

Back on January 8, the legislature voted 8-1 to add an initiative to the April 2 ballot. If approved by voters, it would have replaced the county's current three-eighths of a cent sales tax that funds the Truman Sports Complex (now set to expire in 2031) with an identical tax that would run for the next 40 years.

This was three days after Truman's two leasees — the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals — had released a joint statement saying that if voters approved the measure, they would commit to remaining in Jackson County.

In the release, the Chiefs said they would conduct another "extensive" renovation of GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium — while the Royals said they would build a new downtown facility to replace Kauffman Stadium and secure private funding to create a $1 billion entertainment district around it.

In the Kansas City Star, friend-of-the-site Sam McDowell detailed some of the other offers the teams were making to the county.

The sales pitch: The teams have agreed to cover insurance costs (about $2 million to 3 million annually) for the stadiums and to redirect the park tax ($3.5 million annually) for other county uses, which they estimate would turn more than $200 million combined back to the county over the lifetime of the agreement. Both are effectively county “wins” relative to the existing lease agreement, in which the teams currently receive the park tax while the county covers the insurance costs.

But on Thursday — hours before a deadline — Jackson County executive Frank White exercised his right to veto the measure. In a press release referenced by the Star, he explained he doesn't think the teams have made enough of a promise.

“This proposed sales tax would generate over $2 billion from our residents, yet there is no clear understanding or assurance regarding the teams’ commitments and contributions to the county,” said White. “It’s not a good deal for taxpayers and I cannot support an agreement that is not in their best interest.”

Chiefs, Royals respond

The two teams issued another joint statement after White's veto on Thursday.

“We respect the County Executive’s veto authority,” they said. “We will continue working with the legislators to ensure that this ordinance is on the ballot on April 2 so that Jackson County voters have the opportunity to decide on the extension of the current 3/8th-cent sales tax.”

What happens next

The nine-person county legislature can override White's veto if at least six members vote to do so — but it doesn't appear that will happen. Four members of the Legislature have released statements in support of the county executive's veto, leaving just five votes for an override. According to the Star, legislators Jeanie Lauer, Megan Marshall and Jalen Anderson released a joint statement on the matter.

“As your elected representatives, we are dedicated to ensuring that any agreement with the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs aligns with the best interests of our community and reflects a balance of fairness and responsibility,” the statement from Lauer, Marshall and Anderson said.

Those three also detailed 10 “unresolved issues,” which included wanting the Royals and the Chiefs to commit to keeping “their front offices, training facilities, and essential operations within Jackson County,” which White raised as a concern ahead of his veto.

Legislator Sean E. Smith also issued a statement in support of White's veto.

“While I am anxious to put the issue of the Stadium Tax on the ballot for voters to decide, I do have an obligation to ensure that the key terms have been sufficiently agreed to by all parties before this goes to the vote of Jackson County citizens,” said Smith. “I’m confident that the teams and the County along with the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority can reach an agreement promptly and retain this on the ballot if all parties devote the next several days and endeavor to reach mutually acceptable agreements.”

The legislature faces a hard deadline for initiatives to be included on the April 2 ballot: this Tuesday, January 23. But since the Truman Sports Complex leases for both teams run until 2031, there's still plenty of time for the legislature to decide if it has the deal it wants from the teams.

There is, however, at least one caveat to that. As the Star's McDowell noted two weeks ago, the Chiefs are counting on Missouri Governor Mike Parson to ask the state legislature for help in financing their Arrowhead renovation. Parson is entering the final year of his term, so if the teams can't make a deal this year, the next governor might not be as receptive to the Chiefs' plans.

White, though, thinks a deal can be made.

“I think we’re far along,” White told the Star on January 8. “All of our concerns have been presented to the teams. They understand where I’m coming from in terms of where the county sits in this agreement. And they know the things we’ve asked for.”

White says he just wants the right deal for the teams — and his constituents.

“My thing is, let’s see if we can get revenue back from this contract, that we can put back in the community so that we can do some things in the community. That’s really my goal.”

But is the county asking for more than the teams are willing to give? That could open the possibility that in the years to come, the teams could move to Clay County north of the Missouri River, across the state line into Kansas — or, in everyone's worst nightmare, away from Kansas City.


Should the Jackson County legislature hold out for what it wants?

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