Kansans should chip in on stadium upkeep



May 22, 2019 - 10:25 AM

Professional sports teams play an integral role in our region’s economy. Thousands of local sports fans from both Kansas and Missouri cheer on the Chiefs and the Royals at the Truman Sports Complex each year, and the economic benefits from the two stadiums ripple across the metro area.

But when the bill comes due for the upkeep of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums, only Missourians are chipping in.

Last week, Missouri lawmakers approved House Bill 677 requiring the state to shell out $3 million per year for the next decade for maintenance at the Truman Sports Complex. It’s an extension of a 1990 measure authorizing the payments. An additional $2 million per year is allocated to maintain Bartle Hall.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jon Patterson of Lee’s Summit. The legislation would extend funding until 2031, when the leases at Kauffman and Arrowhead expire for the Royals and the Chiefs.

The measure also includes funding for the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The facility could get $2.5 million annually for 10 years starting in fiscal year 2022. For the following decade, it could receive 4.5 million each year.

When it comes to maintaining Kansas City’s stadiums, Missourians should not shoulder the responsibility alone. Kansas needs to be a part of this equation.

Jackson County pays $3.5 million per year for stadium maintenance, while Kansas City provides $2 million annually.

So, Kansas City residents are taxed three times for the stadiums: first as city residents, then as Jackson County taxpayers and again as residents of Missouri.

Kansans who still have access to the Truman Sports Complex get a free ride.

Inevitably, many Kansas politicians will be resistant to the idea of pitching in to pay to maintain two stadiums that are situated in Missouri. But in the interest of bistate cooperation, residents from both states that reap the benefits of the stadiums should share the cost of upkeep. And $3 million is a modest price to pay.

“It’s a worthy investment,” said Jim Rowland, executive director of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, the entity that operates the Truman complex. “That $3 million generates $27 to $31 million each year in direct taxes alone.”

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican-turned-Democrat from Overland Park, said she would be willing to listen to any requests regarding the budgetary needs of Kansas teams that play in Kansas. But she does not support sending Kansas tax dollars to Missouri unless Kansas taxpayers make that decision.

“I think that a vote on a bistate tax is appropriate to bring to the people so that they can make that determination at the ballot box,” Clayton said. “Kansas is struggling to recover from eight years of financial mismanagement, and we need every penny for our core services.”

Clayton said there is support among her constituents for a bistate tax to fund improvements at the Truman Sports Complex. A ballot initiative similar to the 1996 measure that authorized $118 million in sales tax revenue for the renovation of Union Station would be a more appropriate approach than a legislative mandate, she said.

Both Missouri and Kansas voters approved the Union Station project. But shortly thereafter, Kansas voters rejected a tax increase to fund Truman Sports Complex upgrades and arts organizations.

Still, a new, narrowly drawn measure to fund basic stadium maintenance could win support from Kansas voters. Or Kansas lawmakers could tackle the issue themselves and allocate funds for upkeep.