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Author, fans weigh in on Royals' economic projections for new ballpark district

Bethany Miles, North Kansas City resident
Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-31 20:10:50-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royal's pitched a lot of numbers when they unveiled the designs for the potential new stadium either in North Kansas City in Clay County, or East Village in Jackson County.

KSHB 41 followed up with an author who said what we will eventually see doesn't necessarily match up with what the team put on paper.

"For this to create the kind of new spending that the Royals are claiming, it would be the first time in sports history that occurred," said Neil deMause, co-author of "Field of Schemes."

He's studied stadiums across the United States and has found that pitches like these are the same song and dance he's seen, much like PR.

Neil deMause, co-author of "Field of Dreams"

"Much more designed to show you know pretty photos and lots of charts with big numbers," deMause said.

The Royals estimate a new $2-billion ballpark district will lead to increased spending in and out of the ballpark, and more tourists.

Here's the economic highlights from their pitch:

  • $185-million in net new regional economic output in the first year
  • $68-million in increased spending from visitors traveling to the games in the first year
  • $150-million in overall revenues within the stadium in the first year
  • At least $170-million in annual retail and hotel revenue within the ballpark district's
  • Overall, at least $320-million in annual regional economic activity once completed

"Several economists have made the point that the best way to measure the economic impact of sports stadium is to take the official numbers and move the decimal point over one place," deMause said. "So, you know, somewhere around a 1/10th of what they’re claiming is usually in the ballpark."
deMause argues that same theory goes for new fans that will come to the ballpark and spend money outside of it. He explains it's hard to quantify new fans versus ones that come back for every game, which could skew the numbers.

"This is the thing that makes economists, you know, lose their minds is this argument that every single person who comes from out of town and goes to see a baseball game is new spending," deMause said. "Because, you know, a lot of those people might be there for other reasons."

He said he's never seen a stadium that has the catalyst effect where it creates new spending any further than a couple blocks away.

"The sliver that is actual new spending is so small," deMause said. "It’s never going to be enough to pay off, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, let alone a billion dollars."

He's referring to the billion dollars the team is asking from the public.

It would come in the form of a sales tax for both counties: an extension of the 3/8th's sales tax in Jackson County and a one cent sales tax in Clay County. deMause said the public should ask for more transparency from the team.

"If you want us to give you money, you have to let us know exactly who’s going to be spending what for what," he said.

Fans veer to either side. Some are optimistic and say a new stadium is worth it. But there will always be push-back.

"I could totally understand like why’d there be some hesitation especially with an organization as well known or as big as the Royals, why they couldn’t contribute more, so I understand why there’s mixed opinions," said Bethany Miles, an NKC resident.

And this is criticism the Royals have heard before.

"We think it should be a partnership," John Sherman said in a press conference with the MLB Commissioner, a few weeks ago. "We feel like it will deliver great public benefit and economic impact, and we expect the community to measure that, and hold us accountable for delivering that."