New Kansas City Chiefs stadium plan up for vote in legislature

A 170-year rivalry is exploding as Kansas lawmakers try to snatch the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs away from Missouri, even though economists long ago concluded that subsidizing sports is not worth the cost. professionals.

Top leaders in the Kansas Legislature backed helping professional baseball’s Chiefs and Kansas City Royals fund new stadiums in Kansas ahead of a special session scheduled for Tuesday. The plan would authorize state bonds for stadium construction and pay for them with revenue from sports betting, the Kansas Lottery and additional tax dollars generated in and around the new venues.

The states’ border runs through the metropolitan area of ​​about 2.3 million people, and teams would move only about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west.

Decades of research have concluded that a professional sports franchise doesn’t boost the local economy much, if at all, because it primarily captures existing spending from other places in the same community. But for Kansas officials, the spending would at least get out of Missouri and into Kansas, and overtaking Missouri has its own appeal.

“I’ve wanted to watch the Chiefs in Kansas my entire life, but I hope we can do it in a way that is enriching for these communities, rather than creating additional burdens on them,” said state Rep. Jason Probst, a Democrat. from central Kansas.

The Kansas-Missouri rivalry dates back to the antebellum period, before Kansas was even a state. The people of Missouri came from the east, hoping in vain to create another slave state like their own. Both sides looted, burned and killed across the border.

There was also a century-long sports rivalry between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri. And for years, the two states spent hundreds of millions of dollars to attract companies to one side or the other of the border in search of jobs. They called an uneasy truce in 2019.

Missouri officials have pledged to be equally aggressive in keeping the Royals and Chiefs, and not just because they consider them economic assets.

“They are a source of great pride,” said Missouri state Rep. John Patterson, a Republican from suburban Kansas City who is expected to be the next speaker of the state House.

Kansas lawmakers see the Chiefs and Royals in play because voters on the Missouri side refused in April to extend a local sales tax for maintenance of their adjacent stadiums. Lawmakers also argue that failure to take action risks one or both teams leaving the Kansas City area, although economists are skeptical the threat is real.

While the stadium complex’s lease runs through January 2031, Kansas officials argue teams need to make decisions soon so new or renovated stadiums will be ready by then. They also promise the Chiefs a stadium with a dome or retractable roof that can host Super Bowls, college basketball’s Final Four and large indoor concerts.

“We have this asset and all the businesses that move there as a result, or are created there,” said Kansas state Rep. Sean Tarwater, a Republican from the edge of his state’s Kansas City suburbs and a leader of the effort to relocation. . “There will be commerce in that area every day.”

About 60% of the area’s population lives in Missouri, but the Kansas side is growing faster.

Despite the legislative push in Kansas, Missouri lawmakers are not rushing to propose alternatives. Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson told reporters Thursday that his state is “not just going to roll over,” but also said, “We’re only in the first quarter” of the race.

Both states will hold primaries on August 3, and most legislative seats will be on this year’s ballot. Missouri’s April vote on a local stadium tax suggested that subsidizing professional sports teams could be a political loser in that state, particularly with the conservative-leaning electorate in the GOP primary.

“In Missouri, the Republican Party used to be led by a business wing that might be in favor of this kind of thing, but in the Trump era, that’s not the case,” said David Kimball, a professor at the University of Missouri-St . Luis professor of political science. “The more conservative, more Trump-oriented wing, they’re not big fans of spending taxpayer money on almost anything.”

Kansas Republicans face pressure from the right to prevent the state from picking economic winners and losers. For Probst, the Democrat, the concern is using the government “to make the rich,” that is, the team owners, richer.

Economists have studied professional sports teams and stadium subsidies since at least the 1980s. JC Bradbury, a professor of economics and finance at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said studies show that subsidizing stadiums is “a terrible channel for economic growth.”

While supporters of the Kansas effort have cited a report indicating large, positive economic implications, Bradbury said “false” reports are a staple of stadium campaigns.

“Stadiums are a bad public investment, and I would say that’s almost a unanimous consensus,” said Bradbury, who reviewed studies and conducted them himself.

However, more than 30 lobbyists have signed up to lobby Kansas lawmakers for a stadium financing plan, and the executive director of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has called this a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to attract to the Chiefs.

Not only have the Chiefs won three Super Bowl titles in five years, but they also have an especially strong fan base that has expanded due to tight end Travis Kelce’s romance with pop star Taylor Swift.

Host cities find the National Football League attractive because franchises are valued in the billions and wealthy owners and famous players attract media attention, said Judith Grant Long, associate professor of sports management and urban planning at the University of Michigan and director of its center in sports venues.

“All of this comes together in a potent mix for politicians, civic officials and local business interests hoping to capitalize on their influence,” he said.

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