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Last-minute effort by Kansas lawmakers to bring 2 professional sports franchises to Sunflower State

Kansas legislature members
Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 30, 2024

TOPEKA, Kan. — Efforts championed by a state lawmaker from Johnson County could bring two professional sports franchises to Kansas.

Kansas Rep. Sean Tarwater, a republican, wants to use STAR Bonds to finance stadiums, practice facilities and other amenities to lure the teams to the state.

Tarwater, in a joint committee meeting Monday night in Topeka, said Jackson County fumbled the ball when the vote failed on a stadium sales tax and it was a chance for Kansas to "scoop and score."

"It's an opportunity not only to maybe bring additional commerce to Kansas, but to help keep the teams in the metroplex," Tarwater said Tuesday in Topeka.

The bill to finance a move and new stadiums for the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs was being weighed by lawmakers Tuesday evening.

Tarwater believes having the teams is Kansas would mean billions in revenue for the state.

"But those billionaire owners are bringing billion dollar businesses to the state and a billion dollars of financial impact each and every year to new businesses that will be formed and current businesses that will be helped out quite a bit," he said.

Sen. Cindy Holscher, a democrat from Overland Park, said the proposal might be moving too fast.

"The thing that's kind of concerning is this is moving very fast," Holscher said. "The bill is being fast-tracked at this point. That always does concern me because sometimes things get added in or left out when you need to be very careful in these situations."

Sen. Mike Thompson, a republican, wondered about the impact of the franchises on businesses.

"If these stadiums attracted massive other types of businesses, wouldn't you see that over the years?" he said.

KSHB 41 reporter Abby Dodge asked Thompson if he wanted a stadium in his district.

"Oh, I don't think it's wise financially," he said. "I really don't."

Sen. J.R. Claeys, another republican who is carrying the bill on the Senate floor, said the development would be a huge sales tax generator and would ultimately benefit the citizens of Kansas.

Claeys said the Kansas Speedway and the area around it became a wild success and paid off it's bond early.

"The Chiefs and Royals are not a risky entity," he said. "We have tons of experience with them. We know how many people they are going to bring in in good years and in bad. It's a little different than simply asking taxpayers to fund something like this and I think that's why Kansas is in a unique position to be competitive for the Chiefs and the Royals."