Royals narrow down possible locations for new ballpark district
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Tuesday night, Kansas City Royals executives provided some new information about their vision for a downtown ballpark district.
At their second “listening session” they revealed that they evaluated 14 possible locations and narrowed it down to five. They did not specify which of the 14 initial areas remain in the running.
During the presentation portion of the event at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in the 18th & Vine District, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick reminded folks that Kansas City baseball started downtown.
“Our city is a world class city. It is a top notch baseball city with a very rich history,” Kendrick said.
The plan is for not just a stadium but a district around it that includes restaurants, hotels, shops, offices and apartments.
Royals COO Brooks Sherman said the move is intended to bring baseball to a part of town that’s vibrant and to create development that goes beyond just baseball.
“No matter where we play, we foresee a ballpark district. Vibrant, not only during the 81 home games a year — hopefully a few more in October — but a hub that remains active during the team’s road trips, as well as in the offseason enhancing our community 365 days a year,” Sherman said.
He revisited financing questions presented at the first forum. He said club ownership will pay a billion dollars for the district and for a good chunk of the $1 billion estimated price tag for the stadium itself.
The public funding they’re asking for is both an extension of Jackson County’s current 3/8 of a cent sales tax, and city and state funds to be spent on infrastructure improvements like sidewalks and highway ramps.
After the Q&A session that followed the presentation, KCTV5 caught up with some of the Royals fans in attendance.
One season ticket holder since 2002 said he’s not opposed to a new stadium downtown, but he worries what it will cost him.
“We’ve spent a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of energy to get to where we are with our seats,” said Peter Speihs, “and we want to be able to keep comparable seats without being… priced out of our seats with where we are now.”
Questions were submitted in writing by the audience. Speihs’ concern wasn’t among the questions read at the podium.
One that did involved parking. It’s a widespread concern that came up in the first forum, as well. Presenters showed the footprint of the current Kauffman Stadium onto a downtown map. They said there would be ample parking. But, the concerns go beyond merely finding a space. The question submitted remarked that getting out of parking garages after events at the T-Mobile Center is less than ideal.
A Johnson County Royals fan said he and his friends won’t go if it’s not easy to get both in and out.
“If you have a thousand-space parking garage, everybody wants to get out at the same time and there’s not enough egress to get everyone out,” said Royals fan David Dixon.
Sherman said there is new technology to assign parking based on your seat in the stadium and, therefore, spread out the entry and exit locations.
Sarah Dempster is a principal with Populous, the design firm working on the project. She added that, with all the venues in the proposed district, they don’t anticipate a mad rush to drive home.
“And so, when you have those opportunities for fans to celebrate a big win — as opposed to sitting in a parking lot — I think that also helps alleviate some of those concerns,” she said.
The questions got as detailed as the uniforms. One asked for a promise that the Royals uniforms would not be besmirched with corporate sponsorship logos.
Sarah Tourville, Royals Senior VP of Business Operations, said she could not promise that but said that, if it happens, it can be done subtly in some place like the back of a collar.
“A SEAT AT THE TABLE”
Logistics about the fan experience and funding weren’t the only topics raised. There were also questions about how the club ownership would be giving back in exchange for public funds coming from taxpayers, many of whom are working multiple low-paying jobs to keep up with rising housing costs.
Sherman reiterated he was committed to a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). He has not stated what sort of specifics he would agree to.
A labor group known as Stand Up KC, which has been active in the fight for a $15/hour minimum wage, has demanded a living wage for workers in the new district and affordable housing as a component in the residential piece of the district.
One question a member of that group submitted to the team leadership was: “Will working families, unions and people of faith have a seat at the table to negotiate a strong CBA?”
“I ask you to be patient with us because that CBA agreement will be dependent upon our new home, the location and the new destination in the ball park district,” replied Tourville.
Terrence Wise, one of Stand Up KC’s leaders, was not satisfied with that response.
“Regardless of where the stadium is being built or where the proposed new site is, it’s some things that they can commit to. That’s workers having a seat at the table, a wage floor and just having a voice,” Wise said after the session concluded.
A third forum will be held Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. at the Midwest Geneology Center in Independence.
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