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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signs bill to poach Kansas City Chiefs, Royals from Missouri

Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly at a campaign event in 2022.
Sherman Smith
The Kansas Reflector
The Kansas City Chiefs released graphics in February showing proposed renovations to Arrowhead Stadium, if Jackson County voters passed a sales tax extension. The sales tax vote failed.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday signed legislation that offers hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals to relocate from Missouri.

The legislation, an expansion of one of the state’s tax incentive programs, could help finance up to 70% of the cost for one or both teams to build a new stadium in Kansas.

“We know that modernizing our economic development tools provides the opportunity to increase private investment into the state,” Kelly said in a news release announcing she had signed the bill along with an income tax cut for Kansas residents.

Both bills passed the Kansas Legislature earlier this week. Lawmakers argued during a special legislative session this week that Kansas needed to offer the Chiefs and Royals incentives to stay in the Kansas City area after voters in Jackson County, Missouri, rejected a 3/8-cent sales tax for the teams.

Extending the sales tax would have helped finance a new Royals stadium in the Crossroads Arts District of downtown Kansas City. The Royals currently play at Kauffman Stadium next door to the Chiefs in the Truman Sports Complex, where both teams have had venues since 1973.

The sales tax would have also financed upgrades to the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium.

The teams’ plans for the Jackson County sales tax were criticized by some as vague and incomplete. Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. has said he is open to discussions to help keep the teams in Kansas City, Missouri, but wants to see a “complete and transparent plan that offers tangible benefits to our taxpayers.”

Kansas lawmakers, arguing Missouri had “dropped the ball,” expanded the state’s Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bond program to help finance up to 70% of the cost of the stadiums, which would have to hold 30,000 fans and cost at least $1 billion.

STAR Bonds are issued to help pay the construction costs and then repaid by the sales tax collected at the project site. Normally, STAR Bonds, which are meant to help build tourist and entertainment venues, are limited to 50% of the project costs.

Bonds for the stadiums wouldn’t have to be repaid for 30 years, compared to the normal 20.

And both projects would be eligible to use funds from the state’s legalization of sports betting and the liquor taxes paid at the stadiums to help repay the bonds.

Neither team has pledged to move to Kansas, but both the Chiefs and the Royals welcomed the legislation when it passed the Kansas Legislature on Tuesday.

Missouri currently spends $3 million annually on the Truman Sports Complex, part of a deal cut in 1989 to secure financing for construction of the St. Louis stadium now referred to as The Dome at America’s Center.

Missouri’s current fiscal year budget also includes $50 million from general revenue for “stadium and ground modifications, transportation, marketing, and additional event support” around Arrowhead for the FIFA World Cup.

Missouri legislative leaders have signaled they may respond to Kansas’ efforts to poach the Chiefs and Royals after the August primary, though no plans are currently in place.

This story was originally published by The Missouri Independent, part of the States Newsroom.

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture.