Secret agreement reveals more details about UG payments to T-Bones prior to ballpark purchase

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - An agreement obtained by 41 Action News shed more light on the Unified Government's secret move to provide taxpayer subsidies to the Kansas City T-Bones ownership group earlier this year.

Those payments, not disclosed to elected leaders until months later, were revealed by a 41 Action News investigation on Monday.

The story surfaced on the same day the UG announced it was making a play to purchase Community America Ballpark using $8 million in Village West Sales Tax Revenue Bonds (STAR).

On Tuesday, the UG provided a copy of the January agreement negotiated between County Administrator Dennis Hays and the Ehlert Development Corporation. The document gave the UG the "right to purchase" the ballpark during an option period until the end of September.

The UG made two option payments: one in January of $87,232 and a second one in April for the same amount.

When 41 Action News spoke to representatives of the UG and the T-Bones, there were differing accounts of the financial situation that motivated the deal.

A spokesman for the UG told 41 Action News the ballpark was at risk of foreclosure and the 2013 season was in jeopardy when team owners approached the local government.

However, Team President Adam Ehlert disputed that account during his interview with 41 Action News.

The agreement obtained by 41 Action News does hint at some level of financial problems.

For one, it required a written assurance from the BMO Harris Bank that it would not "take any adverse actions" against the property during the term of the option period.

The agreement also required the owners to keep the ballpark open during the 2013 season.

As part of the agreement, the UG provided a partial rebate on property taxes owed for 2011, 2012 and 2013. According to the agreement, the T-Bones owed delinquent property taxes in excess of $283,000 when the document was signed in January.

Taylor said on Monday the team owners are now current on property taxes.

Finally, the agreement hinged on an opinion by the UG's legal counsel to make sure it conformed with all state laws and required team owners to provide the UG with financial data and other documentation so county leaders could perform due diligence related to the ballpark purchase.

Mayor Mark Holland, who was a commissioner when the agreement occurred, was contacted by 41 Action News to see when he learned about negotiations and taxpayer expenditures related to the ballpark.

A spokesman for Holland said his comment about the purchase was included in Monday's press release .

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or c onnect with him on his Facebook page.

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