top of page

Jackson County Voters Reject Stadium Tax for Royals and Chiefs

Much like Camden Yards in Baltimore ushered in a new era of ballparks across Major League Baseball over three decades ago, developments like the Battery in Atlanta, Ballpark Village in St. Louis, and the new Wrigleyville in Chicago have inspired a new objective for owners seeking to generate revenue outside of the turnstiles.


Constructing an entertainment district around stadiums is something that is becoming more and more of a buzzword when new facilities are being built. Yes, the 81 baseball home games and 8 home football dates inevitably bring masses of people to the ballpark and its surrounding area every year. However, there are still 284 more days (minus postseason or exhibition games) left in a year for teams to search for additional revenue streams.


However, building these projects is easier said than done, especially when teams ask local taxpayers to help foot the bill. Another example of the difficulty came into the light this week in Kansas City.


This week, residents of Jackson County, Missouri resoundingly voted down a sales tax measure that would've helped to fund a new downtown ballpark along with major renovations to Arrowhead Stadium.


More than 58% of voters ultimately rejected the plan, which would have replaced an existing 3/8 of a cent sales tax that has been paying for the upkeep of Truman Sports Complex -- the shared home for more than 50 years for both Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums -- with a similar tax that would have been in place for the next 40 years.


The Royals, who had pledged at least $1 billion from ownership for their project, wanted to use their share of the tax revenue to help fund a $2 billion-plus ballpark district. The Chiefs, who had committed $300 million in private money, would have used their share as part of an $800 million overhaul of Arrowhead Stadium.


The debate about whether public funds should be used to finance new stadiums and the entertainment districts around them is nothing new. Stadium advocates often argue that stadium funding is a worthwhile public investment because game-related commerce improves local economic well-being by generating jobs, income, and tax revenue. However, some economists have refuted this argument by asserting that in reality, stadiums have a poor record of providing such benefits.


Where things go both specifically in Kansas City and more broadly across the country will be interesting to follow.


For now in Kansas City, both the Royals and Chiefs still have lease agreements in place for another seven years to play at the Truman Sports Complex in Jackson County. Usually, a request for public money comes with the threat that the team could leave town if the measures fail. Neither team has gone that far, though, and it's worth noting than Royals owner John Sherman is a Kansas City native and has signaled he isn't interested in leaving the area. If a move were to come, crossing the state line from Missouri to Kansas would be the likely destination. The Chiefs on the other hand are only seeking renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. Given their success at home in recent years, it would be hard to imagine seeing the Chiefs play elsewhere.

More broadly, we will see if the vote in Jackson County impacts other proposed renovations or brand-new ballparks across the country. The Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks are likely “next in line” when it comes to renovations or entirely new stadiums in MLB. In the Phoenix market, the Arizona Coyotes had a new arena and entertainment proposal rejected by City of Tempe voters last year and are still seeking alternative options to stay in Arizona.

While some efforts will face taxpayer opposition, don’t expect owners and teams to stop attempting to gain public financing to not only build new stadiums, but developments around them. Ideally, democracy will have its say in whether these projects ultimately get over the finish line though.

Brendan Bell is a 1L at Arizona State Law School and is the Southwest Regional Representative on the Conduct Detrimental Law School Student Board. He can be found on (X) @_bbell5

bottom of page