Ready for a ‘scoop and score’: Legislature takes first step in bid for Chiefs, Royals

Members of the Senate and House Commerce committees meet April 29 to discuss a bill to lure the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals to Kansas.

Members of the Senate and House Commerce committees meet April 29 to discuss a bill to lure the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals to Kansas. (Credit: Brett Stover)

Apr 30, 2024

The Kansas Legislature hopes a last-minute bill will lure two major Kansas City professional sports teams — the Chiefs and Royals — to the Sunflower State.

Jackson County “dropped the ball,” Rep. Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell, said of the failure of a ballot initiative to pay for renovations at Arrowhead Stadium and a downtown baseball complex. He said a bill created Monday night would put Kansas in position for a “scoop-and-score.”

The Senate and House Commerce committees met one day before the anticipated end of the legislative session to gut-and-go new language into House Bill 2663. Tarwater said the bill will send a message to the sports community that “we’re here. We’re very serious about that.”

The meeting was called in response to the early April municipal vote, which Tarwater said “failed pretty miserably.”

“We kind of had an idea that was going to happen, so we’ve been working on some sort of a solution for [the teams] for some time now — without their involvement,” he said.

The goal was to prepare for “the right plan for when the time is right” to start negotiations, and Tarwater said it looks like that process is starting. Clark Hunt, CEO of the Chiefs, said Saturday at the NFL draft that both teams are looking at options beyond the current complex they share in Missouri.

Those comments “lit a fire” under the Legislature, prompting swift action instead of waiting until next year, Tarwater told State Affairs. “We received the signal.”

“If Jackson County can’t step up and make it happen, then they need to know that we’re there for them and they do have an option over here,” Tarwater said.

The framework discussed in conference would insert language creating a new sales tax and revenue (STAR) bond district. It’s similar to existing STAR bond statutes, but with tweaks aimed at creating a “major professional franchise STAR bond district.” The bill also would allow for the creation of tax increment financing (TIF) districts and other local incentives.

Open to franchises from the NBA and NHL in addition to the NFL and MLB, a team would be required to build a complex with at least 30,000 seats and a minimum $1 billion investment. A maximum of two projects would be selected.

HB 2663 would allow revenue bonds for “all costs necessary” for the projects, including construction and renovation. Up to 100% of the project could be financed for 30 years, higher than the usual STAR bond standard of 50%.

The initiative would be open to more than one county or city and would let teams build a stadium in one municipality and a practice facility in another, with separate STAR bond districts.

Alcohol taxes, not usually included in STAR bond projects, would be counted as sales tax in the districts.

The bill would sunset June 30, 2025, allowing for a little more than a year of negotiations. The State Finance Council could extend the deadline for an additional year

“These structures will bring in business, and they will cause development around them,” Tarwater said, arguing that revenue generated will pay for the facility over 30 years

Sen. Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, said it’s an incredible and exciting opportunity to “put Kansas on the map.”

She asked to remove a provision that would have allowed for a separate STAR bond district for an amusement park. The House conferees agreed to the suggestion.

Brett Stover is a Statehouse reporter at State Affairs Pro Kansas/Hawver’s Capitol Report. Reach him at [email protected] or on X @BrettStoverKS.

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