40-Year Sales Tax to Pay for Kansas City Sports Stadiums Resoundingly Rejected

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
April 3, 2024Sports News
40-Year Sales Tax to Pay for Kansas City Sports Stadiums Resoundingly Rejected
A general view of Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, as it sits empty as Major League Baseball has shut down competition due to coronavirus in Kansas City, Mo., on March 19, 2020. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Jackson County voters rejected a proposal to introduce a 40-year sales tax to help pay for renovations at the Chief’s Arrowhead Stadium and a new ballpark for the Kansas City Royals in Tuesday’s local election.

The Chiefs and the Royals signed new leases with the Jackson County Sports Complex authority just last week—contracts that were contingent on the approval of the tax and whose legal authority was questioned by the Jackson County Executive’s office.

Unofficial results from the Jackson County Election Board showed 58.2 percent majority of voters rejected the sales tax, with a remarkably large voter turnout of over 34 percent.

Nearly a quarter of registered voters cast their ballots in Kansas City, leading to a similar rejection of the tax.

The 3/8 cent sales tax was set to begin in 2031 and collect $2 billion over the next 40 years. In 2006, voters approved a 25-year tax of the same amount to help pay for improvements to the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, where both stadiums are located.

“The people of Kansas City and Jackson County love the Chiefs and the Royals,” Democratic Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas posted on social media platform X. “Today, they rejected plans and processes they found inadequate.”

“Over the months ahead, I look forward to working with the Chiefs and Royals to build a stronger, more open and collaborative process that will ensure the teams, their events and investments remain in Kansas City for generations to come,” the Mayor promised.

The Jackson County Legislature first reviewed the proposal in December and voted 8-1 to place the tax on the April ballot.

A month later, Jackson County Executive Frank White, (a Royals’ Hall of Famer and a member of their 1985 World Series Championship team), vetoed against placing the sales tax on the ballot.

“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,” Mr. White said at the time. “It’s not a good deal for taxpayers and I cannot support an agreement that is not in their best interest.”

The legislature then voted to override his veto. However, Mr. White’s public opposition to the tax increase gained traction, as did his criticism of the negotiations with the sports teams.

NTD Photo
Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback #15 Patrick Mahomes celebrates with the trophy after the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2024. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s clear that putting the initiative for a new sales tax on the ballot without a mutually beneficial agreement in place was a mistake and not in the best interest of our residents,” he said in a statement on March 20. “Our community deserved a thoughtful, equitable, and transparent approach to these public investments.”

After the two teams signed leases with the Jackson County Sports Complex authority last week, Mr. White’s office issued a statement alleging that these contracts lacked the authority to prevent the teams from leaving for another city, even if the tax would be approved.

“It is imperative to clarify to the residents of Jackson County that these documents do not constitute leases with Jackson County,” the statement read. “The Sports Complex Authority operates independently and does not have the authority to commit or act on behalf of Jackson County in matters of leasing or similar legal agreements.”

The plans for a new $2 billion baseball stadium in downtown Kansas City were revealed in January.

A month later, just weeks after winning their second consecutive Super Bowl championship, the Chiefs announced their plan for a “complete reimagination and renovation” of Arrowhead Stadium.

Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said his family would front $300 million of the $800 million cost for the renovation.

Given that the Arrowhead stadium will host the 2026 World Cup, the renovations are scheduled for 2027 and will be completed in 2030 or 2031.

The existing stadiums in the Truman Sports Complex, approximately nine miles east of downtown Kansas City, both date from the early 1970s.

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