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Taxpayers Will Soon Find Out if They’ll Have To Finance Fancy Stadiums for the Chiefs and the Royals

Arrowhead Stadium | Image of Sport/Newscom

Professional sports team owners are at it again. This time, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals who want fans—along with their fellow taxpayers who may be indifferent toward sports—to help with their business expenditures. Early voting has already begun as Jackson County prepares to decide whether to partially fund the teams’ stadium plans or potentially lose the teams to another city.

The Chiefs proposed $ 800 million in renovations to the GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, of which the owners will only pay $ 300 million. The Royals, meanwhile, announced in February plans for a brand new stadium estimated to cost $ 2 billion, only half of which is expected to be paid by the Royals in private funds.

The vote, which will conclude April 2, either will have residents opt to get rid of an existing sales tax that pays a portion of stadium operation fees or replace it with a new one—totaling approximately $ 2 billion and scheduled for over the course of 40 years—in order to pay a portion of the price. Each team would receive $ 27 million of tax money annually.

So what will happen if voters reject it? “We’d have to look at all our options,” said Mark Donovan, the president of the Chiefs. “I think they’d have to include leaving Kansas City.” His appeal may very well sway voters, considering there is a long history of these threats working in the city.

The Royals echoed Donovan’s thought: “There’s lots of cities that would love to have these franchises,” said John Sherman, the majority owner of the Royals. And the Committee to Keep the Chiefs and Royals in Jackson County noted that “if the vote doesn’t pass, both teams will consider all options.”

But even though they insist these taxes are necessary, it’s difficult not to see their threats as a way to scare voters into coughing up taxpayer dollars so both teams can save private funds. Leaked documents indicate that taxpayers could end up paying up to $ 5.1 billion over four decades—far more than the teams’ estimate.

The sports giants are in fact so keen to save every penny that a $ 1 million request by Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. to pay for the elections, in order to avoid taking funds from the city’s emergency reserve, has so far gone ignored by the teams. The initiative “poses a significant dilemma,” said White, “given our commitment to safeguarding the county’s financial stability.”

It’s worth noting that the Hunt family, who owns the Chiefs and whose fortune stems from oil tycoon H. L. Hunt, is worth nearly $ 25 billion, according to Forbes. Putting aside the questionable ethics of weaponizing local sports enthusiasm to save private funds, there is no clear reason why the owners can’t pay for the renovations themselves.

As for the Royals, the sales tax would cover only one-third of the stadium’s costs. The reason is far from encouraging. Most of the funds would go toward the county’s debts to Truman Sports Complex, as well as interest payments on the team’s construction loan, leaving “somewhere between $ 250 million and $ 350 million that can actually be used to cover stadium expenses.”

In other words, the public would be forced to pay the price for a private company’s mismanagement. Also dubious is the claim that the team needs a new stadium at all: A 2022 study concluded that the current Royals home turf, Kauffman Stadium, is in “satisfactory condition.”

Some small business owners are rallying against the stadiums, because, perhaps most infuriatingly, several such enterprises would be razed in the process of building the Royals stadium. “We’re all kind of dumbfounded right now, still, that they did choose this location,” said Matt Adkins, an owner of a wine bar and boutique grocery. “There’s literally something five blocks away [in the East Village] where they’re saying, ‘Please come over here instead.'”

When Donovan was asked about business owners’ apprehension about the effects the stadium reforms would have on the Crossroads district, he responded: “Change is hard, and there’s a lot of information that needs to get out there….We think downtown baseball is right for baseball.” OK. But does that make it right for the city and its residents?

The post Taxpayers Will Soon Find Out if They'll Have To Finance Fancy Stadiums for the Chiefs and the Royals appeared first on Reason.com.

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