KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In 2022, the Kansas City Royals' ownership group threw KC a curveball and announced on social media a new stadium is on the way.
"This is about much more than baseball, it's about small businesses," said Royals owner and CEO John Sherman. "It's about safe, walkable neighborhoods, it's about jobs and really, hopefully, lifting all boats."
An open letter from Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman. pic.twitter.com/jdj8ed2MXr— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) November 15, 2022
The team said they'll have their decision made by September, but in the meantime, everyone has an opinion.
We're taking this topic 360, hearing from:
- Fans who bleed Royal blue
- The Residing Clay County commissioner about their plan for the stadium
- Former Jackson County leaders on why the team should stay in Jackson County
- Author/economist who warns of what could happen
First at bat, the fans. Arguably the most important opinion, KSHB's Caroline Hogan asked tailgaters their thoughts before an afternoon ball game.
"I think it’d be nice to stay here and not move," Sydney Hornbuckle said.
In this case, Hogan found Hornbuckle's reaction was common to what others thought about the move.
"The giant parking lots — I think it’s part of the tailgating, Kansas City culture that we have," Patrick Brigman said.
Getting into the nitty gritty, KSHB asked which option fans prefer.
"I guess I’d have to say downtown, that’s my choice," Brigman said. "You know, got the streetcar access, there’s a lot to do."
Some fans were concerned about parking.
"If they move downtown, there might not be as much opportunity for parking lot tailgates, so having the opportunity to be in the North Kansas City area, I feel like there’s more space, more room for that," Ingrid Caniglia said.
But others are just happy to watch a game and team they love.
"Wherever they go, we’ll go to the games," said Barbara Donelson, who drove to the game from Marshall, Missouri. "Hey, we’re from Missouri. Gotta like the Royals."
Next up, Clay County.
"It would be facing south, so you pick up on the really spectacular Kansas City skyline," said Presiding Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte.
Their pitch to the Royals: 80 acres of space. Clay County is hungry to not only build a stadium, but an entertainment district, too.
"This will be a destination as opposed to just to come to see a game, you’re going to come in here to have a really entertaining day with your family," Nolte said.
He noted the growth in North Kansas City, where it's come from and where it's going.
With a population of 253,000 people, Clay County has recently picked up two seats for state representatives.
"Royals or no, this is going to develop in a very strong way," Nolte said. "So, I think we’re just going to accelerate the process, and the Royals would be a huge gain in that process to bring more business here to southern Clay County."
Now, Jackson County steps up to the plate. The plan would be to build the stadium in the East Village near downtown KCMO.
Dan Tarwater, former Jackson County chairman, said he worked closely with the Royals during his time in office, specifically with the lease agreement to keep the stadium in Jackson County.
Jackson County's argument: why change what's working?
"If they move down here to East Village before 2031, that can be worked out," Tarwater said. "If they move to North Kansas City, that’s not in Jackson County, and there are some penalties in that lease that they’d have to satisfy."
It's no secret the stadium needs repairs.
"We’ve put lipstick on 'em for so long," said Mike Smith, former chairman of the Jackson County Sports Commission.
Smith worked closely alongside Tarwater to secure upgrades to Kauffman Stadium in 2006.
"We oughta probably tear it down and look at building something new, it makes sense," Smith said. "The repair bills are going to get so bad to the taxpayers that they’re gonna have to."
But overall, it's the pricey lease agreement that's top of mind.
"Look, you can leave Jackson County, but you’re going to pay a penalty on your lease," Smith said. "We wrote those leases pretty severe for a penalty if you left."
Rounding it out, an author and economist, who's studied new stadiums across the country, adds a third-party perspective to this fight.
"The most important thing is to follow the money, and it could be hundreds of millions, billions of dollars at stake here," Neil deMause said.
deMause has found new stadiums don't necessarily mean more money.
"The same Royals fans are going to be spending the same money," deMause said. "Is it creating new spending or is it just shuffling money around?"
A new stadium also doesn't guarantee a better team will come out of it, despite arguments made by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
"There’s a honeymoon period where it’s like, 'Ok, let’s sign a bunch of good players and try to get a good team on the field,'" deMause said. "The problem, of course, is that honeymoon period doesn’t last forever."
While it might be another month before anything's certain, one thing's for sure: loyal Royals fans will follow the team wherever they go.
"Oh, I’ll go wherever they go," Hornbuckle said. "I mean, I’d like it to stay here, 'cause it’s closer to where I live, but I’ll make the drive."