The Kansas City Royals have their sights set on a new stadium and that’s created some division among the fan base. There is a section of Royals fans that loves Kauffman Stadium and its nostalgic features like the stunning outfield fountains.
Ask any Royals fan and they will quickly recall their favorite memories. Kauffman Stadium has been the home to sports legends George Brett and Bo Jackson. It housed two World Series championship runs and is in some ways the spirit of the Kansas City sports community.
However, there are some fans that would like a change. The Star spoke with several Royals fans at Kauffman Stadium during a recent series against the Nationals to get their view.
“Although I grew up coming to the original Kauffman Stadium, I think it’s probably seen its day,” Royals supporter Jennifer Heath said. “I think the downtown has been revitalized so much that a new stadium will definitely help bring in more tourists and revenue to the downtown Kansas City area.”
Kauffman Stadium was built in 1973. It is the sixth-oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, just behind iconic venues Wrigley Field and Fenway Park to name a few.
The infrastructure has been updated over the years. The Royals added outfield seating and updated the exterior to modernize the venue. Still, there is a push for a new complex.
Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman favors a downtown stadium to attract new fans and create a multi-functional experience. His vision includes a plan to generate revenue through a buzzworthy entertainment district.
“Following Mr. K’s original vision for the franchise, we also want to ensure that we have a world-class ballpark that stays competitive with our peers nationwide and best serves our community to the fullest,” Sherman said in a letter to the fan base.
Regarding the construction of a new venue, there are several possibilities that have emerged in recent months — though some have garnered more buzz than others. The Royals have explored potential locations in North Kansas City and the East Village near City Hall.
The team has begun discussions with stakeholders in each locale. The next big step is to get a proposal on the ballot. Residents in the proposed counties would need to vote on whether to allow and/or extend a sales tax regarding the stadium and project.
The stadium and district proposal is estimated to cost $2 billion. Some fans have questions about the taxpayer aspect.
“This is a beautiful stadium here and, no, we do not need another stadium downtown,” Royals fan Bob Rosburg said. “Especially, if it’s going to cost $2 billion of the taxpayers money. I would vote no.”
Rosberg offered a novel alternative.
“If the owners want a new stadium, let them pay for it,” Rosburg said.
Sherman said there is private capital to pay for the “bulk” of the ballpark development, but specifics have been harder to come by.
“The bulk will be private,” Sherman said. “We would expect that private capital would take care of a major part of the ballpark and that private capital would develop all of the ballpark district around the ballpark.”
North Kansas City stakeholders envision the ballpark district to resemble the Wrigleyville area near Wrigley Field in Chicago. Wrigleyville is a surrounding area that offers amenities outside of Cubs games. Fans can watch the action or enjoy many retail stores that are nearby.
Another example is The Battery near Truist Park in Atlanta. The multipurpose entertainment district has several restaurants and apartments. It is a destination for residents year-round and generates revenue for the Atlanta Braves.
According to the Cobb County government (which houses Truist Park), the taxable property values have skyrocketed since The Battery was created. The numbers rose from $5 million in 2014 to $736 million in 2022. Additionally, stadium and development added $38 million in tax revenue to the county, state, and school district.
Truist Park is a destination for residents and Braves fans. The Braves originally played downtown but didn’t have the entertainment district.
The Royals hope to generate similar interest with their stadium development. It would be the inverse of the Braves plan in terms of proximity to downtown. However, the benefits of a successful ballpark district remain the same.
“I think a downtown park can lead to a new resurgence for Royals fans,” Royals fan John Mackey said. “If we stay here (at Kauffman Stadium), great. I have been around other entertainment districts around new stadiums and it brings a new energy to the local community. I think it is something that can help all of Kansas City and the metro area.”
For now, the Royals are tied to Kauffman Stadium. The lease through Jackson County runs through the end of the 2030 season.
The Royals have yet to update fans on the latest developments in the stadium project. For some of the Royals faithful, that is just fine; Kauffman Stadium is their home.
“I like that its easy to get to and easy to park,” Royals fan Karen Wolf said. “I don’t really have any complaints. I think downtown is fun, but the ease of getting there would be a possible barrier for attendance.”
Fellow fan Wayne Whitney agreed.
“I think they ought to leave it right here,” Whitney said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to move to downtown where you can’t find a place to park.”
While parking may be more difficult downtown than at the Truman Sports Complex, there are plenty of garages and parking options, many of which are called upon for events held at T-Mobile Center frequently. The Royals could also build an additional parking structure at or near the stadium.
The debate will rage on in the upcoming years. There are pros and cons on both sides of the issue as a new stadium and district proposal continues to develop.
Royals fan Anthony Circo highlighted one thing that can appease both sides: the Royals winning games.
“I think, honestly, they need to put a better team on the field,” Circo said. “Winning sells, doesn’t it.”
The Star’s Kevin Hardy and Sam McDowell contributed to this story.