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Design & Development

Royals faced with choice between two sites for new ballpark

Initial concept for a new ballpark development

Featured image credit: Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals have narrowed down their search for a location for a proposed new ballpark to two sites, with a final decision expected to be made by the end of the summer as the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise aims to give its current home base the “best shot” to retain the team.

Royals chairman and CEO, John Sherman, made the announcement yesterday (Thursday) during a midseason press conference. The team has confirmed the two sites under consideration are firstly in its current base of Jackson County at a site in the East Village near the downtown loop; and secondly a North Kansas City site in Clay County, which has a smaller tax base but also more space available for a potential ballpark village-style development.

“We’re going to be ready to get that down to one, we hope, by the end of the summer,” said Sherman. “There remains some critical steps that we need to take to our partners to make sure we can do that.”

In December, the Royals maintained that a new ballpark is required, as opposed to renovation of Kauffman Stadium, while stating they were committed to remaining in Kansas City. The previous month saw Sherman announce that the team had identified several sites to develop a proposed $2bn (£1.58bn/€1.84bn) downtown ballpark and mixed-use development that would be the largest public-private project in Kansas City history.

Populous has been engaged for the project and the Royals outlined that it would cost more to renovate Kauffman Stadium ($1.072bn) than it would to develop a new ballpark ($1.005bn). Renovations are also projected to take a further two years to complete, with 70% of the stadium needing to be replaced.

The new stadium is expected to have around 35,000 seats with a capacity of 38,000, including standing views of the game. The Royals expect the projected $2bn total cost to be split roughly 50/50 between the stadium and the mixed-use development, with the majority of this to come from investors and the team’s ownership group.

With the team seeking around $1bn in public tax dollars and city and state financial commitment, the Royals are proposing to extend the 3/8th-cent sales tax in Jackson County, which Sherman believes would provide $300m to $350m each for the Royals and NFL franchise the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kauffman Stadium forms part of the Truman Sports Complex, which also includes GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Chiefs. The NFL team is also currently weighing up its stadium options. Under the current lease agreement with Jackson County, which for both teams expires in 2030-31, a 3/8th-cent sales tax goes toward the upkeep of facilities.

Sherman said of the sales tax: “In addition to that, it will create an ongoing long-term maintenance fund like we have at present, which is really important when you think about these projects. The $350m is really that base financing. We’ll have requests of the state and the city, and if it’s not specific, they certainly know the range. Ownership will then take the rest of that.”

Sherman acquired the Royals with a group of investors in 2019. In September 2021, he confirmed that the Royals were considering a move to downtown Kansas City, with the team conducting an internal process to evaluate its options of where to play.

The Royals have played at Kauffman Stadium since it opened in 1973. Commenting on the two site choices, Sherman said: “(Clay County) is highly motivated and has been very creative about approaching us.

“However, we’ve been partners with Jackson County, and have been in Kansas City for 52 years. We value the relationship. We want them to give us their best shot, and we’re going to give them our best shot to do it there. But I think we should be clear – there’s certainly an alternative to that idea.

“If we end up in East Village, that will be great and we’ll achieve all the things that we hoped. If it’s in North Kansas City because the process didn’t proceed at the pace some of us wanted, then some people are creative up there. They’re entrepreneurial and willing to put capital at risk. There’s an idea up there which certainly could work for the Kansas City Royals.”