Royals plan to build new ballpark in downtown Kansas City near existing entertainment district

Tue, Feb 13, 2024
MLB News (AP)

Royals plan to build new ballpark in downtown Kansas City near existing entertainment district

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City Royals intend to build their new downtown ballpark blocks away from T-Mobile Center and the Power & Light District, scrapping two concepts elsewhere in the city for a location that puts the stadium closer to existing entertainment areas.

The Royals revealed plans for the $2 billion-plus ballpark project Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium, two days after the Kansas City Chiefs - whose Arrowhead Stadium shares the Truman Complex with their existing ballpark - won their third Super Bowl in the past five years, and one day before the city celebrates another Lombardi Trophy with a parade downtown.

The route Wednesday travels along Grand Avenue to Union Station, or directly past the location of the new ballpark.

"We're the second-smallest city with both an NFL franchise and Major League Baseball club," Royals owner John Sherman said, "and we want to sustain ourselves as a major league city. We want these franchises to thrive here for another 50 years."

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The new ballpark will seat about 34,000 fans, or roughly 3,000 fewer than Kauffman Stadium, and the Royals are hopeful it would be ready for the 2028 season. The final design is still under development, but renderings shown Tuesday paid homage to the K's swooping roof lines and iconic centerfield fountains.

"The ballpark will have a really great feeling of intimacy," Sherman said.

Kansas City started play at Municipal Stadium in 1969, then moved to Kauffman Stadium in 1973 and extensively renovated the current ballpark from 2009-12.

The Royals unveiled two other locations last fall, one on the eastern edge of downtown and the other across the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. Both were met with tepid reaction from fans, many of whom still love Kauffman Stadium, and political infighting ensued over the extension of a sales tax in Jackson County, Missouri, to help pay for the ballpark.

The Royals' ownership group plans to invest more than $1 billion in private funding for the project, but some of the money will come from the 3/8-cent tax, which also will provide funding that the Chiefs plan to use to renovate Arrowhead Stadium.

"I know I'm biased here," Sherman said, "but between what the Chiefs can do out here with an expanded tailgate experience, and what we do down there, we will have two of the best pregame and postgame experiences in all of sports."

The Royals and Chiefs pushed to put the sales tax on the April 2 ballot, and Jackson County legislators initially approved the referendum, only to watch Jackson County executive Frank White - a five-time All-Star and member of the Royals' Hall of Fame - veto the measure. Last month, two legislators changed their vote and joined five others in overriding the veto.

That not only put the tax extension on the ballot, it put the onus on the Royals to reveal exactly what voters will be paying for.

The new ballpark would be situated adjacent to Interstate 670, where the Kansas City Star's former printing press building sits largely vacant, and tie together several disparate neighborhoods into a more cohesive downtown environment.

Just to the north, where new parks would cover the interstate and allow for safe pedestrian traffic, sits Power & Light, the home to many existing bars and restaurants. To the south lies the Crossroads Art District, a trendy enclave anchored by the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. And to the east is the historic 18th & Vine neighborhood, home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum and iconic restaurants such as Arthur Bryant's Barbeque.

"The fact of the matter is, we've always been cognizant of this site. It never went away," said Earl Santee, the founder of the Kansas City-based sports architectural giant Populous. "We looked at other sites over time, and this is my 23rd major league ballpark site, and it's timing that leads you to the end, and this is the right timing for this site."

Santee compared the 17.3-acre site to downtown ballparks built in Denver, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. There are about 20 property owners in the area and the Royals will need to negotiate with each of them to purchase their parcels of land.

"Development is happening in ways that are engaging," Santee said. "This will amplify the brand of Kansas City."

Indeed, the Royals hope the project continues what Sherman called "a golden era" for the former cowtown on the plains.

Over the last decade, Kansas City has hosted two World Series, baseball's All-Star Game and the NFL draft, while a $1.5 billion airport opened just over a year ago. The Kansas City Current of the National Women's Soccer League will open their new purpose-built stadium next month on the north edge of downtown, and Arrowhead Stadium was recently awarded six games - including a quarterfinal match - by FIFA for the 2026 World Cup hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

"This is about a lot more than just a new home for the Royals," said Brooks Sherman, Royals president of business operations, who is unrelated to the team's owner. "This generational project is intended for something great."

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