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How does the Royals and Chiefs community benefits agreement measure up to others?

Expert “disappointed” with proposals from teams
laura dresser.png
Posted at 5:16 PM, Mar 22, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals and Chiefs released the framework for a community benefits agreement on March 2 they plan to enter into if Jackson County voters approve Question 1 on April 2’s ballot. A yes vote would allow the teams to benefit from a 3/8th-cent sales tax for 40 additional years. The tax has been in place since 2006.

It’s become standard for developers to promise certain benefits to the public who pays a tax to fund the development. Those promises are often laid out in a community benefits agreement (CBA).

The sales tax would generate about $2 billion over 40 years. The Royals would use half the money to help build a new stadium downtown. The Chiefs would use the other half to renovate GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

Despite KSHB 41 News asking multiple times, the teams have not shared the CBA documents. A press released issued Wednesday shows the teams promise to invest a combined $266 million through a CBA. Some of the money will fund training programs for people to learn trades involved in construction, transportation for employees and the public at large, educational commitments, among many other benefits.

The teams called the CBA “historic,” but not everyone sees it that way.

“I didn't read it and get excited,” Laura Dresser said of the press release. “I didn't feel like I was reading a historic document. I was reading a document that disappointed me.”

Dresser is an associate director at High Road Strategy Center, a think tank within the University of Wisconsin. It published a paper in February encouraging the Chiefs and Royals to follow the example of Milwaukee’s CBA when the Bucks NBA team proposed building an arena and district now called Fizerv Forum and the Deer District.

Dresser said Milwaukee’s CBA gave service workers, the janitors, concessionaires, and other arena employees, a seat at the table to unionize and ensure the team met its promises on pay, working conditions, and other labor issues.

Brooks Sherman, the Royals President of Business Operations, said current stadium workers are currently members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 and will the team will continue to employ union workers at any new stadium.

Tuesday, the day before the teams issued press releases about the CBA, the SEIU Local 1 said it was “cautiously optimistic” about entering into a workforce agreement with the Royals.

Dresser criticized the teams for not releasing their entire CBA documents. She said transparency is necessary for accountability.

“From what little I can see, it's certainly not something you call very transparent,” Dresser said during an interview from Madison, Wisc.

During an exclusive interview Wednesday, Chiefs President Mark Donovan said the team has a track record of doing good in the community and will build on that reputation through the CBA.

“The fact is you've got two franchises that have both gone through that process, met continuously with the coalition representing the community on what's most important to us,” Donovan said. “They came to an agreement that they're going to put more money in this community than has ever been before.”