Kansas governor signs bills enabling effort to entice Chiefs and Royals with new stadiums

Kansas' governor has signed legislation enabling the state to lure the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Major League Baseball’s Royals away from neighboring Missouri

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' governor signed legislation Friday enabling the state to lure the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and Major League Baseball's Royals away from neighboring Missouri by helping the teams pay for new stadiums.

Gov. Laura Kelly's action came three days after the Republican-led Legislature approved the measure with bipartisan supermajorities — an unusually quick turnaround that signals how urgently Kansas officials consider making the offers.

Missouri officials have argued that discussions about building new stadiums are still in the early stages. They said construction of a new one typically takes about three years, and pointed out that the lease on the existing complex that includes the teams' side-by-side stadiums doesn't end until January 2031.

The measure Kelly signed takes effect July 1 and will allow bonds to cover 70% of a new stadium's cost. The state would have 30 years to pay them off with revenues from sports betting, state lottery ticket sales, and new sales and alcohol taxes generated in the area around each proposed stadium.

The Kansas-Missouri border splits the 2.3 million-resident Kansas City area, with about 60% of the people living on the Missouri side.

Kansas officials began working on the legislation after voters on the Missouri side of the metropolitan area refused in April to continue a sales tax used to keep up the existing stadium complex. The Royals outlined a plan in February to build a $2 billion-plus ballpark in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, while the Chiefs were planning an $800 million renovation of their existing home.

Attorneys for the teams told Kansas legislators they needed to make decisions about the future soon for new stadiums to be ready on time — though the Royals had planned to move into a new downtown ballpark at the start of their 2028 season. Some critics suggested the teams are pitting the two states against each other for the biggest government subsidies possible.

“The Chiefs and the Royals are pretty much using us,” said state Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Democrat from the Kansas City, Kansas, area who voted against the bill.

Supporters of bringing the teams to Kansas warned that if neither state acts quickly enough, one or both teams could leave for another community entirely. Several economists who have studied professional sports were skeptical that a move would make financial sense for either a team or a new host city, and both the National Football League and Major League Baseball require a supermajority of owners to approve franchise moves.

The plan had support from throughout Kansas, including about half of the lawmakers from western Kansas, 200 miles (320 kilometers) away from any new stadium.

Kansas lawmakers approved the stadium financing plan during a single-day special session Tuesday. Kelly, a Democrat, called the session for the Legislature to consider tax cuts after she vetoed three previous tax plans and legislators adjourned their regular annual session May 1. On Friday, she also signed a bill that will save income and property taxpayers a total of $1.23 billion over the next three years.

Although the financing law doesn't specifically name the Chiefs or Royals, it is limited to stadiums for National Football League and Major League Baseball teams "in any state adjacent to Kansas.”

“It’s fairly clearly about how you poach,” Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas said during a news conference after Kansas lawmakers approved the measure. He added that his city would “lay out a good offer” to keep both teams in town and that the teams ”are in an exceptional leverage position.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Credit: AP