Kansas lawmakers ready to roll out the red carpet for Chiefs stadium

A public relations campaign accompanying a letter from two Kansas lawmakers inviting the Kansas City Chiefs to consider building a stadium in the Sunflower State have made waves across the Sunflower State. The move comes after Jackson County, Missouri, voters rejected a sales tax plan that would funded upgrades to Arrowhead Stadium.

By

State News

June 7, 2024 - 3:05 PM

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson sent a letter asking the Kansas City Chiefs to consider a plan that would help build a new stadium in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo by Rachel Mipro / Kansas Reflector

Top Republicans in Kansas are officially inviting the Kansas City Chiefs to relocate across state lines.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins, both Republicans, sent a letter Tuesday evening to the team’s owners, asking them to consider a plan in the state Legislature that would help build a new stadium in Kansas City, Kansas.

“(The plan) represents, in our view, the best economic development partnership the franchise will find in America,” the letter reads. “With our strategic location, a vibrant fan base, robust economic incentives, and the exceptional tools at our disposal, we are poised to make the Kansas City Chiefs even stronger.”

Lawmakers never voted on a bill to bring the Chiefs or another sports team to Kansas before adjourning in May, but they will return to the Statehouse on June 18 for what’s expected to be a brief special session about tax cuts. Hawkins and Masterson say lawmakers also will consider the sports bill then.

The letter coincided with a mass text message inviting people to visit a website describing the plan and asking them to urge their state representatives to support it. The site, paid for by “Scoop and Score, Inc.,” makes a number of claims about the project, including that it would come at no expense to taxpayers.

While the plan would not necessarily require an immediate increase in taxes, it would help finance the stadium through sales tax revenue bonds, or STAR bonds. The state issues those bonds for certain developments and essentially diverts the sales tax revenue those developments generate in future years to pay off the debt.

Proponents say STAR bonds boost economic activity and the diverted sales tax revenue wouldn’t exist without the new projects. But critics say the projects often fall short of economic expectations.

The bill would also require the Chiefs or any other team to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to a potential stadium project. It would allow the state to recruit up to two professional sports teams.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has previously said she doesn’t believe the state is in the right financial position to attract the team. She says she’s not involved in any efforts to recruit them across state lines but says she wouldn’t “stand in their way,” either.

“Probably over half the people in the stands any given Sunday are Kansans,” she told the Kansas News Service in April. “We claim them as our team – but we recognize that it’s probably in their best interest to stay where they are, so we (the governor and her office) won’t be making any overtures to the Chiefs.”

Kelly called the upcoming special session so lawmakers could pass tax cuts she’s willing to sign, but lawmakers are also allowed to vote on bills related to other subjects.

In a recent interview with KCUR, state Rep. Sean Tarwater, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the STAR bonds bill, says it’s the one piece of legislation he could see passing during the special session other than tax cuts.

“As you were walking through the Statehouse on the last day of session, … there was a heck of a lot of talk and a lot of excitement over the STAR bond bill that would bring the Royals or the Chiefs or both to town,” he said.

Other officials, like Republican former House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., have pointed at revenue from sports betting as a potential funding source.

When Kansas legalized sports betting in 2022, it designated 80% of the state revenue toward attracting professional sports teams. But that fund is expected to hold $10 million by 2025 – a far cry from the billions it would take to build a new stadium.

Related
June 5, 2024
January 27, 2022
August 21, 2020
August 18, 2020