Design & Development

Royals set for September decision on new ballpark site

Initial concept for a new ballpark development

Featured image credit: Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals chairman and CEO, John Sherman, has said the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise will make a call on a site for its proposed new “world-class ballpark” in late September.

Sherman gave his latest update on the plans in an open letter issued to Royals fans and the Kansas City community yesterday (Tuesday). The Royals last month narrowed down their search for a location for a proposed new ballpark to two sites, as the franchise aims to give its current home base the “best shot” to retain the team.

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.

Sherman said yesterday: “In the next 30 days, we plan to share an overview of the ballpark district, including the broad benefits of the two sites under consideration – one in Jackson County and one in Clay County. We are putting both sites through an equally rigorous process. We look forward to unveiling detailed renderings and many other components that will help us compare the broad benefits of both sites.

“We will create a world-class ballpark that keeps pace with our peers nationwide, brings to Kansas Citians a dynamic and energised ballpark experience, and is woven into the fabric of our region.”

Anchored by the new ballpark, the Royals have outlined that the construction project alone is expected to generate over 20,000 jobs, $1.4bn (£1.08bn/€1.26bn) in labour income and $2.8bn in total economic output from construction and labour income during the three-plus years it will take to build it.

Sherman said the Royals anticipate that the inaugural year of the new ballpark is expected to generate some $185m more in regional economic output than its current home, Kauffman Stadium, does today.

He continued: “The Royals ownership group will commit well in excess of $1bn in private investment to help create transformational growth here and across the region, dramatically enhanced game day experiences, and more visitors who will generate much more spending throughout our hometown.

“We are committed to doing this right. This is a huge decision for us. We’re focused on playing the long game for the region we call home. In late September, we plan to announce which site will best fulfil our pledge to Kansas City to create 1) powerful community impact, 2) generate sustainable economic activity in the county, city, and state, and 3) greater opportunity for the citizens of our region.”

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 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.

Local broadcaster KSHB has noted that Jackson County or Clay County will require voter approval to modify or introduce a new tax for a Royals stadium. The deadline to get a question on November’s ballot is late August, meaning that Sherman’s declaration of a September announcement will result in the April 2024 election being the next available opportunity to put the project in front of voters.