Manfred supports the Royals’ plans for a new ballpark

Associated PressAugust 16, 2023, 05:47 PM ET4 Minutes Reading

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred threw his support behind a new stadium for the Royals on Wednesday, calling both of their potential sites near downtown Kansas City “incredibly high quality” for the type of revenue generation and multi-use regions necessary for small market clubs to compete.

Manfred spoke for an hour at the Urban Youth Academy, which is designed to encourage inner-city youth in baseball, along with Royals president John Sherman and Bob Kendrick, the president of the nearby Negro Baseball Museum.

The Royals plan to announce in September whether to build a replacement for Kauffman Stadium in the East Village, an area near the T-Mobile Center and the existing Power & Light site, or across the Missouri River in Clay County, where there are more land available for a potentially larger baseball village.

“This is a huge opportunity for this community — forget about the Royals,” Manfred said. “Each of these locations are great locations for a new dance.

“I think in our financial system, new facilities provide a ball club with an opportunity to generate revenue that just doesn’t exist in older footprints. you don’t have the kind of premium monetization opportunities you have in a new facility for a market of this size.”

The Royals have said the new ballpark project will cost about $2 billion. Most will be privately funded, but some of the money is expected to come from the renewal of the 3/8-cent sales tax used to maintain Kauffman Stadium.

However, the sales tax was passed by voters in Jackson County, where the downtown site is located. If that location is selected, it will likely be voted on in April. But the site across the river is in Clay County, and that would potentially require a different funding structure than the one long envisioned.

Another factor is that the Royals have shared that tax revenue with the Chiefs because Kauffman Stadium shares the Truman Sports Complex with Arrowhead Stadium. But the NFL franchise prefers Arrowhead Stadium rather than rebuilding, and how these two franchises can continue to coexist in different locations is not entirely clear.

Regardless of the location chosen, Sherman said the new Royals stadium would take about three years to complete, which would mean opening day for the 2027 or 2028 season. He also said in a recent letter to fans that the project would create about 20,000 jobs, generate about $1.4 billion in labor income and $2.8 billion in total economic output, and its inaugural season would “generate about $185 million more in regional economic output than The K does today’.

Much of that money would come from premium seating and clubhouse areas not possible at Kauffman Stadium, which has long been one of Major League Baseball’s crown jewels but is currently the fourth-oldest ballpark still in operation .

“Our region is at a turning point, and I mean that in a positive way,” Sherman said. “We’ve got a new airport. The World Cup is coming (in 2026). We just hosted the NFL Draft. We’ve got a women’s soccer stadium coming out of the ground on the riverfront, the only one of its kind, and the Chiefs and Royals are talking about to do some really special things for this community.”

Manfred pointed to how the new stadiums for the Nationals and Braves have led to revitalization and revenue.

In the case of the Nationals, their new park has accelerated the development of what was once an industrial neighborhood known as the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. In the case of the Braves, the shiny new Truist Park serves as the fulcrum of The Battery Atlanta. , where restaurants and luxury residential areas have sprung up from the ground.

“I lived in the District, I worked in the District for 15 years. The Navy Yard, where the National Park is, when I lived there you wouldn’t go there. Nobody went there,” Manfred said. “If you go there now, you’ve got the park, all this development, high-end housing, mixed-use development … (In Atlanta), they built a city where there was none. It’s become one of the premier entertainment centers in the metropolitan area where there was nothing.”

Both Kansas City sites are optimal for development as they are filled with old, vacant buildings and vacant lots. But both would also require significant investment in parking, entry and exit, and other infrastructure.

“This process that we’re in the middle of right now — we’re evaluating — it’s imperative that we do it now to find a new home, a new ballpark, a new ballpark,” Sherman said, “but just as important is a new location where he can bring vibrancy and energy around the pitch and do great things for this city.”

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