Royals dispute leaked Jackson County projections on what new ballpark would cost taxpayers

The Kansas City Royals issued a statement Friday disputing Jackson County’s assertions that a new downtown ballpark would cost county taxpayers $4.4 billion to $6.4 billion, calling the county’s figures “erroneous, misleading, and inconsistent with what we’ve shared publicly and in private negotiations.”

However, the team did not address or directly rebut the county’s assertion that the county sales tax that the Royals are requesting to help build a new stadium would cost taxpayers somewhere in that range, if extended 40 years, as the team has suggested in those negotiations

The statement, instead, conflated the $350 million that the team has asked to provide up-front to build the $1 billion ballpark with the amount of money the tax would collect to the benefit of the team over those four decades.

Nor did the statement address the county’s claim that the county would be obliged to pay $2.9 billion in property insurance on the new stadium over those four decades.

The statement was in response to The Star’s exclusive story on Thursday that reported on the county’s projections, which were contained within a confidential document that the news organization obtained from a source within the legislative branch of county government.

County Administrator Troy Schulte sent the two-page memo and accompanying spreadsheet to all nine members of the legislature this week.

It projected that stadium sales tax revenues to pay off the debt and pay the team the current subsidy it now gets for stadium repairs, maintenance and operations would range from $1.3 billion to $2 billion during a 40-year lease. The lower figure was based on the county’s assumption that tax receipts would grow 1% a year and the higher one was based on what the county said was the Royals’ assumption of 2.5% annual growth.

The Chiefs would likely get an equal amount, if the sales tax passed in 2006 were extended to 2071.

On top of that, the county’s insurance broker estimated $2.9 billion in property insurance premiums on the new baseball park alone, as well as $170 million for each of the teams in payments from the county’s parks property tax levy and payments from the state and Kansas City.

The Star provided the Royals with a copy of the spreadsheet Thursday and the team declined comment.

On Friday afternoon, the Royals issued its three-paragraph statement on social media.

It began by disputing the county’s numbers and reiterating that the Royals and Chiefs have been clear in asking for an extension of the current 3/8ths-cent sales tax.

“For the Royals, this would result in an approximate $350 million up-front contribution from the County toward the estimated $1 billion construction cost of the stadium,” the team said. “Private investment from the Royals alongside other public funds will also pay for the stadium and associated infrastructure. Additionally, the Royals would cover cost overruns to the stadium, as well as the proposed $1 billion surrounding district to generate year-round, long-lasting economic output and other benefits for the county, city, and region.”

“Kansas City is on the rise. A successful public-private partnership is critical to secure the future of the Royals and Chiefs for decades to come.”

The team has not said where the rest of the money to build a new ballpark will come from.

“The details of all of this would be shared and public before a vote,” a spokesman said.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca both took to social media on Thursday and Friday to dispute the projections from the county administration, which is headed by County Executive Frank White, who was a member of the Royals team that won the 1985 World Series.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Lucas called the spreadsheet’s estimates of the financial burden on taxpayers “unrealistic” and the leak of that document “a sign to some, me included, of bad faith negotiation.”

Lucas has been in separate talks with the Royals but has no say in the county’s lease negotiations. The Royals are obligated under the current lease to play at Kauffman Stadium through the end of the 2030 season.

Team owner John Sherman wants the team to be in a new ballpark by 2028, which will require the county’s blessing and convincing county voters to extend the sales tax.

Abarca called the leak of the county projections “an attempt to poison the well with misinformation” and accused White, without identifying him, of trying to sink any deal.

“Although, I cannot share the full details of the confidential documents I can share that there is at least a billion dollar error and no clear source for the figures. It’s almost like someone doesn’t want a deal to happen,” he said on X.

White declined to comment on the document or those critiques.