Kansas City community groups organize opposition ahead of Royals downtown stadium meeting

Royals New Stadium Renderings.jpg
Posted at 1:56 PM, Dec 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-13 14:56:38-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several community groups are organizing in hopes of halting or ensuring representation in the decision-making process with the Kansas City Royals poised to abandon Kauffman Stadium for a downtown baseball ballpark.

Representatives with Stand Up KC — which advocates for low-wage workers, including the push for a $15 minimum living wage — plan to attend a “public community meeting” Tuesday evening organized by the Royals at Plexpod Westport Commons.

KC Tenants, which advocates for affordable housing in Kansas City, also plans to have a presence at the event.

Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman, who announced the team’s intent to move downtown via an open letter posted on the team's social media accounts in November, will be among those speaking at the meeting.

In a statement Tuesday morning announcing plans to attend the meeting, Stand Up KC said low-wage workers need to have a seat at the table of the project.

“Low-wage workers from Kansas City say any plan to move the Royals stadium to downtown Kansas City needs to include the voices of low-wage workers and commitments from leaders to provide good jobs and improve the standard of living for residents who might be asked to foot the bill,” Stand Up KC said.

The group said its primary objective would be to ensure that any agreement for taxpayer help with the project would include “a strong community benefits agreement that ensures Kansas Citians — particularly poor and working families in the city — can reap the benefits of its development.”

In the November letter to fans, Sherman wrote that the team "would not ask Jackson County citizens to contribute any more tax dollars than" they already do. The line is an apparent nod to the need of county residents to extend a sales tax that’s currently set to expire in 2031. It’s unclear how much of the project would be privately financed or if, and how much more, taxpayers would be asked to pitch in for the pro baseball team’s new digs.

"When I think about a project like this, I think about the impact that it will have on poor and working people and our community,” Terrence Wise, a leader in Stand Up KC, said in a statement via email to KSHB 41 News. “Our community is struggling with poverty wages, unaffordable rents, and school closures, and families like mine have to struggle just to keep our lights on and food on the table. Any project that involves our tax-payer dollars MUST be part of the solution to these problems and we should have a strong community benefits agreement that delivers those details in writing."

KC Tenants took a different stance, arguing in a statement that a downtown stadium is an unnecessary luxury for a city already facing a housing crisis:

We don’t need a flashy downtown stadium. We don’t need a playground for the wealthy and for tourists. As landlords raise rents across the city and as our people struggle to find decent homes, the proposed downtown stadium would usher in a new wave of gentrification, like it has in so many other cities with similar recent projects. The stadium downtown would threaten longtime community members, hitting our poor and working class neighbors and the Black and brown residents of Kansas City’s Eastside and Northeast neighborhoods the hardest. This is a bad deal for the people. The worst part? They’ll ask us to foot the bill. We refuse to subsidize our own displacement. KC Tenants opposes this proposal outright.
KC Tenants

The meeting is not open to the public. Rather, participants had to request permission to reserve a spot and questions will be pre-screened.

The Royals said in announcing the “public community meeting” that team officials, who had yet to grant interviews with media outlets since Sherman published his open letter, will not take questions from reporters.