A Missouri mayor says a fight over jobs is back on. Things to know about Kansas wooing the Chiefs

Wed, Jun 19, 2024
MLB News (AP)

A Missouri mayor says a fight over jobs is back on. Things to know about Kansas wooing the Chiefs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A plan in Kansas for luring the Kansas City's two major league sports franchises from Missouri has prompted their hometown's mayor to declare that the move ends a 5-year-old agreement by the states not to poach each other's jobs.

The Kansas Legislature has approved a measure to allow the state to issue bonds to help the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs and Major League Baseball's Royals pay for new stadiums in Kansas. It goes next to Gov. Laura Kelly.

Here are a few things to know about the two states' contest for the teams.

Kansas is poised to make offers

While Kelly has not formally pledged to sign the stadium-financing bill, she issued a positive statement when it passed Tuesday, saying it could make Kansas "a professional sports powerhouse." If she signs it, as many lawmakers expect, it would take effect July 1.

The state's secretary of commerce, Lt. Gov. David Toland, would negotiate with one or both teams on a plan for a new stadium. Kelly and eight top legislative leaders would have to approve each deal with a vote in a public meeting.

A deal would draw the boundaries of a district around a stadium and possibly another around a separate practice facility, and new state sales and alcohol tax revenues generated by shops, restaurants, bars and hotels within that district would pay off the bonds over 30 years.

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The city and county could pledge tax revenues as well but are not required to do so, and the state also could use revenues from sports betting and state lottery ticket sales to back bonds as well.

The bonds could cover up to 70% of the costs of the new stadiums, though supporters of the plan don't expect that, anticipating that two stadiums together could cost $4 billion.

There is talk of a renewed economic 'border war'

The Kansas-Missouri border splits the 2.3 million-resident Kansas City area, and there's both Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. Much of the border is the median of State Line Road, and about 60% of the area's residents live on the Missouri side.

A feud between the two states has existed for generations and most recently saw each state burning through tens of millions of dollars in subsides to pull existing businesses across the border. Officials on both sides came to see the contest as expensive and wasteful, and in 2019, Kelly, a Democrat, and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, signed a truce.

Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Quinton Lucas told reporters that Kansas' bid for the Chiefs and Royals restarted that economic "border war."

"I do believe long-term that we're one place and it's better when we work together," he said during a news conference.

But Kelly doesn't agree that the states' truce has been violated, telling reporters this week that before the agreement, "We never discussed the teams."

Kansas lawmakers tapped fears about the future

Kansas lawmakers acted after voters on the Missouri side refused in April to extend a local sales tax for keeping up the complex with the teams' side-by-side stadiums. Many Kansas lawmakers worried that if they didn't act, the teams might move out of the area altogether - mentioning Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Nashville.

Several economists who've studied professional sports were dubious that moving would make financial sense for either team - especially the Chiefs, who have a rabid fan base that could be hard to build quickly elsewhere. In addition, after pro football's Rams moved nearly a decade ago from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the team's owner and the National Football League paid $790 million to settle a lawsuit filed by St. Louis interests.

But Kansas lawmakers noted that the Royals' major-league predecessor, the Athletics, moved to Oakland, California, in 1968 and now plan to relocate to Las Vegas. Kansas City lost major-league professional teams to other cities in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Chiefs came to Kansas City in 1963 after starting as the Dallas Texans four years earlier.

"The state of Missouri is known for losing professional teams," Kansas state Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Kansas City-area Republican, who helped lead the push for the stadium bill.

Kansas officials expect Missouri to respond

Missouri officials have pledged to do what it takes to keep the Chiefs and Royals in their state but have not outlined specific proposals. Lucas saw the April vote as a sign that area residents wanted officials to discuss options other than extending the sales tax.

Like their counterparts in Kansas, Missouri lawmakers have finished their annual regular session, but they are set to meet again Sept. 11 to consider vetoes by Parson.

Supporters of Kansas' bid for the teams said it could spur an aggressive response from Missouri - and added that if the teams get offers they like and opt to stay there, at least they're still in the Kansas City area.

Lucas said the teams now have "exceptional leverage."

Kansas and Missouri describe the timeline differently

The lease on the complex with the Chiefs' and Royals' existing stadiums runs through January 2031, but the teams have said they must plan renovations or new stadiums years in advance for them to be ready on time. Both suggested that even seven years out, time for a decision is short.

Backers of the Kansas bid said such comments justified acting Tuesday, during a one-day special session that Kelly called to consider tax cuts after lawmakers adjourned their regular annual session May 1. Some critics argued that legislators should have waited until their regular 2025 session starts in January so a plan could be properly vetted.

But Parson and Lucas have said the contest for the teams is only in its "first quarter," using a football metaphor.

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Associated Press writers Summer Ballentine, in Columbia, Missouri, and Jim Salter, in O'Fallon, Missouri, also contributed to this story.

JOHN HANNA Hanna covers politics and state government in Kansas for The Associated Press. He's worked for the AP in Topeka since 1986. twitter mailto "
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