Lawmakers want the Chiefs and Royals to come to Kansas, but a stadium plan fizzled

TOPEKA, Kan. — Some Kansas lawmakers see an opportunity to lure Kansas City’s two largest professional sports teams across the Missouri border, but an effort to help the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and Major League Baseball’s Royals finance new stadiums in Kansas fizzled about concerns about what this could look like for taxpayers. .

Members of the Republican-controlled Legislature introduced a bill Tuesday that would have allowed Kansas officials to approve at least $1 billion in bonds to cover the entire cost of building any new stadium, and the to pay off debt with tax revenues generated in the area over a 30-year period. . But Republican leaders did not bring it to a vote before lawmakers adjourned their annual session on Wednesday.

Some critics derided the plan as corporate welfare. Others were open to it, but wouldn’t adopt the proposal until the Legislature passed a broad package of tax cuts for their constituents, which Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly was supposed to sign — which didn’t happen.

Lawmakers’ work on a plan began in earnest behind the scenes after voters on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area earlier this month firmly refused to renew a local sales tax used to build the complex that houses the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium and the Royals are established, to be maintained. Kauffman Stadium for more than 50 years.

The bill’s biggest champion, Kansas House Commerce Committee Chairman Sean Tarwater, a Republican from Kansas City, said supporters want to give the two professional sports teams another option if they consider leaving Kansas City, which he said would be devastating for both states.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” Tarwater said. “We need them to stay in the metroplex.”

The idea is not dead yet.

Kelly and her aides indicated Tuesday that she will likely veto the latest tax package passed by lawmakers, which will cut income, sales and property taxes by a total of nearly $1.5 billion over the next three years . Lawmakers expect Kelly will call a special session of the Legislature to try to get lawmakers to approve a tax plan that she will accept — and then they could consider the stadium financing proposal.

“We just need some time — we’ll be fine,” said Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican from Wichita. “I mean, we’re serious about encouraging the Chiefs to come our way.”

The proposal would allow the bonds to finance 100% of the construction of each of the two new professional sports stadiums with at least 30,000 seats. State and local officials would have a year to sign off, and the teams would be in trouble if local tax revenues weren’t enough to pay off the bonds.

“It was just a matter of running it before we give real tax relief to our constituents — kind of that juxtaposition look at what looks like corporate welfare before you get tax relief to the people,” Masterson said after deciding not to organize tax reductions. Senate vote.

Before the Missouri local sales tax vote, the Chiefs wanted to use their share of the revenue to help pay for Arrowhead’s $800 million renovation. The Royals planned to use their share to help finance a new $2 billion-plus baseball district that would be part of a larger nationwide wave of sports construction.

The two teams’ current lease on the complex runs through Jan. 31, 2031. Royals owner John Sherman has said the Royals will not play at Kauffman Stadium after the 2030 season. The Chiefs hope to stay at Arrowhead Stadium.

“We’re going to be in a situation where we’re going back to the drawing board,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt told reporters last week. “I feel a great urgency and we will approach it from a broader perspective in the future.”

Backers argue the Kansas plan is ideal because the money to pay off the bonds would come from new taxes only as the area around each stadium develops. Professional players will also have to pay state income taxes on the portion of their revenue earned at Kansas stadiums.

But Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, a small-government, low-tax group that has long opposed the use of such bonds, also opposed the stadium financing proposal. The group has influence with Republicans and told lawmakers they would consider their vote as they evaluate their record.

Critics have long argued that allowing the bonds to finance major projects amounts to picking economic winners and losers rather than the free market. The same types of bonds have financed several projects, including NASCAR’s Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.

A lawmaker from northeastern Kansas, Democratic Sen. Tom Holland, called the stadium proposal “economic development for millionaires.” He added that it is “complete folly” to allow taxpayers to subsidize the stadiums – either through taxes they pay when they visit the stadiums or because the state loses out on revenue that would flow into its coffers.

Another northeastern Kansas lawmaker, conservative Republican Sen. Dennis Pyle, said, “We have a lot of priorities in Kansas, and I’m not sure this is one of them.”

Other lawmakers were critical that the Legislature had no public hearings or debates before three senators and three House members met publicly this week to hammer out the details of the proposal.

“As much as I would like to see the Chiefs and Royals both come to Kansas, this is a very large expenditure of taxpayer dollars that deserves careful consideration, and not a last-minute plan,” said Democratic state Rep. John Carmichael of Wichita. .


Skretta reported from Kansas City, Missouri.