The Chiefs And Royals Got What They Deserved

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote on a tax to fund their respective stadium projects, the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals spent at least $3 million on their “Vote Yes” campaign. Travis Kelce began the first sentence of one campaign spot, and Bobby Witt Jr. finished it. Another was narrated by Bo Jackson and George Brett. The “Vote Yes” message wasn’t all so charming. Last week, a pro-Yes group sent out a mailer with photos of black members of the city’s powerful tenant union, which campaigned against the tax. The mailer read, “DON’T LET THE RADICAL LEFT TAKE THE CHIEFS FROM US.”

By a sizable margin, voters in Jackson County, Mo. adopted the famously radical-left position of opposing new taxes. In 2006, voters approved a 3/8th-cent sales tax to pay for renovations at the Truman Sports Complex, home to the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium and the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium. That tax is set to expire in 2031. A “Yes” vote yesterday would have repealed the 2006 tax and replaced it with a new 40-year 3/8th-cent sales tax to fund the construction of a new ballpark for the Royals, in the city’s downtown Crossroads neighborhood, and to renovate the Chiefs’ stadium.

The teams followed the usual public financing blueprint. They intimated that they might leave Jackson County, or the metro area altogether, if the vote failed. (Here, the beloved back-to-back Super Bowl champions offered the 106-loss baseball club a helpful running mate.) Royals owner John Sherman and Chiefs owner Clark Hunt released an ominous joint statement on Monday:

We feel good about our plans and what’s in store for Jackson County – and we are fully committed to winning on April 2 in order to keep our teams at home. But know this: There is no redo of this campaign. This is not going back on the ballot in November. There is no plan B.

But was there a plan A? The way the teams acted and spoke to county residents suggested they considered the vote a formality—there was no issue too big to wave aside. Several experts found the teams’ proposed community benefits agreement lacking. It was “what a fake CBA looks like,” the head of a watchdog group told public radio station KCUR. Less than a month before the vote, two community organizations dropped out of the county’s negotiations with the teams, citing their “deeply misaligned” visions for a CBA. And while the Royals have mulled a downtown ballpark for years, as late as this past January, they hadn’t provided the county with an actual site for the ballpark. (In fact, this past summer, Sherman said the team had narrowed the options down to two sites, neither of which was the eventual Crossroads site.) An earlier version of the Crossroads ballpark plan proposed demolishing some businesses in the area, but the Royals announced they were changing that plan last Wednesday, weeks after early voting had begun. The Chiefs’ plan was just as ill-conceived: Renderings of a “reimagined” Arrowhead Stadium featured the very necessary “new endzone suites,” “VIP access road,” and “VIP entry + canopy.”

Increasingly, people recognize stadium scams as such, and the would-be scammer should prepare for scrutiny. The downtown ballpark is not itself an unpopular idea, and the residents of Jackson County would presumably like to keep the Chiefs and Royals there. But they also wanted to know what exactly they were paying for, and why they should be the ones to pay for it. The Chiefs and Royals considered the first two facts sufficient answers to any questions. Their campaign revealed how little they think of their fans in Kansas City. The vote showed how wrong they were to think so.

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