Royals zero in on two sites for new home


Rob Manfred pushes stadium market in Kansas City Image: Kansas City Royals and MLB

The Major League Baseball (MLB) team Kansas City Royals unveiled plans for two dramatically different locations for a replacement to their aging home stadium – the Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri (US) – on August 22nd, calling them on equal footing even as the team-issued date for a decision looms next month.

‘ESPN’ stated that the first location, called the East Village, would consist of a ballpark anchoring a 27-acre development just blocks away from the thriving Power and Light District (neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri), where the 18,000-capacity T-Mobile Center already exists. The second location is a 90-acre tract across the Missouri River in Clay County, where the Royals would have more ability to develop commercial and residential properties.

The Kansas City Royals are an American professional baseball team based in Kansas City, Missouri (US). The Royals compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League Central division.

The 37,903-capacity Kauffman Stadium, often called ‘The K’, is a baseball stadium located in Kansas City, Missouri (US). It is the home ballpark of the Kansas City Royals of Major League Baseball (MLB). It is part of the Truman Sports Complex together with the adjacent 76,416-capacity Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL).

The Truman Sports Complex is a sports and entertainment facility located in Kansas City, Missouri. It is home to two major sports venues: The Arrowhead Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, and the Kauffman Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

‘ESPN’ further stated that both plans were produced by Populous, the Kansas City-based sports architecture giant, which has been responsible for the renovation or construction of more than 20 stadiums currently in use across Major League Baseball.

Observed Brooks Sherman, the Royals’ President of Business Operations, “We knew we were engaged in a generational decision. ‘The K’ has been the home to the Royals for 50-plus years – been a great home – but it’s time for a new one. It’s actually incredible that we have these two locations to even consider as a future home and sustain ourselves as a Major League City.”

The Royals announced plans to leave Kauffman Stadium about two years ago. But progress has been slow in deciding on a path forward, given the myriad factors involved in the proposed $2 billion-plus ballpark and entertainment district.

The Royals have long shared with the Kansas City Chiefs sales tax revenue from Jackson County for the upkeep of the Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums, both of which reside in the Truman Sports Complex. But while the Royals intend to build elsewhere, the preference of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is to remain at the Arrowhead Stadium and renovate the existing NFL venue.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the Royals and Chiefs are both tied to a lease with the Jackson County that does not expire until 2031. If the Royals decide on the downtown location, they would remain in Jackson County and the teams could seek to extend the lease. If they move to Clay County, some tricky politicking and negotiation would be necessary.

Regardless of the site, Sherman reiterated that the Royals are prepared to spend about $1 billion in private funds on the project, and they intend to move into their new stadium for the opening day of the 2028 season.

Added Sherman, “That’s part of the equation, is to ensure we’re negotiating properly and having the proper back-and-forth with each set of governing bodies – the elected leaders – and we’re doing that with both the Clay County and Jackson County.”

The downtown site, which has long been viewed as the frontrunner, would lean into commercial and business possibilities to help drive the revenue that the MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said is necessary for a small-market club to compete.

The proposed stadium, which the Populous Founder Earl Santee warned is not a final design, features swooping roof lines that are reminiscent of the Kauffman Stadium. There is homage to the fountains for which the existing park is known in the right-center field and what Santee called “one of the most intimate seating bowls in all of baseball”.

Yet, the stadium comes with drawbacks. Ingress and egress is already a challenge in the downtown corridor, and parking could be difficult, particularly for day games when the existing parking is already taken up by those working in the area.

The location in North Kansas City would continue the revitalization of what was once a run-down industrial neighborhood.

The ballpark is meant to feel more “gritty”, Santee said, to better fit within the existing area. But a large number of buildings would be razed to make room for hotels and conference centers, residential buildings and parking pavilions, and a large park and lake that could serve as a year-round gathering space. There is even a proposed 4,000-seat performance venue.

Imran Aukhil with the economic advisory firm HR&A said both the projects would have about a $320 million impact on the region, not including the construction itself, which would spur at least 20,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in total economic output.

New York (US)-based HR&A is an employee-owned company advising public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic clients on how to increase opportunity and advance quality of life in Cities. It believes in creating vital places, building more equitable and resilient communities and improving people’s lives.

As the late-September date for a decision nears, the Royals are continuing to negotiate with political and business leaders involved with both the proposed locations. They also are soliciting feedback from the fans, many of whom have been lukewarm about the prospect of building a new ballpark for a team that is once again on pace to lose more than 100 games.

Said Sherman, “We’ve got work to do on a number of fronts to get to our decision on this.”

High Hopes

‘YARDBARKER’ stated that the MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has big expectations for a venue in one of the league’s smallest markets.

Appearing in Kansas City recently to help support the Royals’ ongoing push to replace the Kauffman Stadium, Manfred pointed to venues in Atlanta and Washington – two of MLB’s foremost facility success stories – as the type of broad, entertainment-district projects to emulate.

“It’s the power of baseball,” said Manfred, speaking at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City along with the Royals owner John Sherman. “Eighty-one [home] games changed what the community looks like, all for the better.”

The selection will be crucial both for the City, which is MLB’s third-smallest market, and the team, which ranks 25th in the team payroll.

Maintained Manfred, “For a market of this size, those [development] opportunities are critical in today’s game in order to put the ballclub in position to be competitive over the long haul.”

Blueprints for Success

‘YARDBARKER’ further stated that the Atlanta Braves, now one of the league’s top-performing teams both on and off the field, set a new Truist Park (Braves’ 41,084-capacity home in Georgia) record recently with their 43rd sellout of the season. In Washington, the 41,546-capacity Nationals Park dramatically revitalized the Navy Yard area, where the stadium is located.

Sherman said the proposed stadium development “will be the most important decision that we would make while we have the privilege of stewarding this franchise.”

New York (US)-based the Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization. One of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, the MLB comprises 30 teams, divided equally between the National League and the American League, with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

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