Kansas lawmakers approve plan to lure Chiefs from Missouri

TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bipartisan plan to lure the Kansas City Chiefs away from Missouri by helping finance a new stadium for the Super Bowl champions.

The bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and sent to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly would allow Kansas to issue bonds to cover up to 70% of the costs of a new stadium in the state for the Chiefs and another for Kansas City of Major League Baseball. Royals. The plan also encourages teams to move their training facilities to the Kansas side of the metro area, divided by the two-state border.

Kansas would pay off its bonds over 30 years with revenue from sports betting, Kansas Lottery ticket sales and new sales and alcohol taxes collected in shopping and entertainment districts around the sites of new stadiums. .

Korb Maxwell, a Chiefs attorney who lives on the Kansas side of the border, said state lawmakers “accepted the possibility of the Chiefs and the Royals” and could now make a “very compelling offer” to the Chiefs. NFL team.

“We are excited about what happened here today,” he said after the bill was approved by the Legislature. “It’s incredibly real.”

The votes were 84 to 38 in the House and 27 to 8 in the Senate. Kelly did not say she would sign the stadium funding bill, but in a statement she praised the efforts.

“Kansas now has the opportunity to become a professional sports powerhouse,” she said.

Kansas lawmakers consider both teams in play because in April, voters on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro area refused to extend a sales tax used to maintain the teams’ existing stadiums, which sit side by side next to.

Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature had promised that the stadium proposal would not be debated until the Legislature approved a plan that would cut income and property taxes by a total of 1.23 billion dollars over the next three years. Many lawmakers argued that voters would be angry if the state helped fund new stadiums without cutting taxes.

“We absolutely need to demonstrate that we are providing relief to our citizens,” said Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican who supported the stadium financing plan.

Kelly called a special session for lawmakers to consider tax cuts after vetoing three tax cut plans before lawmakers adjourned their regular annual session on May 1. Once lawmakers called the special session, Kelly could no longer control what they considered, which created an opening. to examine the stadium financing plan.

The first version of the plan was released in late April, but lawmakers did not vote on it before adjourning. That would have allowed state bonds to finance all stadium construction costs, but the version lawmakers passed Tuesday would cap the amount at 70% and require legislative leaders and the governor to approve any bonding plan.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Sean Tarwater, a Kansas City-area Republican, said the Chiefs would likely spend between $500 million and $700 million in private funds for a new stadium.

“There is no blank check,” Tarwater told fellow Republicans during a briefing on the plan before the House began debating it.

A new nonprofit group, Scoop and Score, formed last month to lobby to bring the Chiefs to Kansas, and that group and the Royals together hired more than 30 lobbyists for the special session. But the small national free-market government group Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Policy Institute, a free-market think tank, oppose the measure, and both have had influence with conservative Republicans.

Free-market conservatives have long opposed state and local subsidies to specific businesses or projects. And economists who have studied professional sports teams have concluded in dozens of studies over the decades that subsidizing their stadiums is not worth it.

“Most of the money spent on the Chiefs is money that would otherwise be spent on other entertainment projects,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in central Massachusetts, who has written several books on sport.

Missouri officials said they would do everything in their power to keep the teams, but offered no proposals.

“The story now is that today, in my opinion, it was largely about leverage,” said Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas. “And the teams are in an exceptional leverage position.”

Both teams’ leases on their stadiums run through January 2031, but Maxwell said renovations to the team’s Arrowhead Stadium would have to be planned seven or eight years in advance.

“There is an emergency,” added David Frantz, the Royals’ general counsel.

Supporters of the stadium project have argued that economists’ previous research does not apply to the Chiefs and Royals. They said the bonds would be paid off with tax revenue that is not currently generated and never would be without the stadiums or the development around them. Masterson said it was wrong to characterize the bonds as grants.

And Maxwell said, “For a city to be major league, it needs major league teams.”

But economists who have studied professional sports say similar arguments have been at the heart of past debates over financing new stadiums. Development around a new stadium reduces development elsewhere, where the tax money generated would go to fund services or schools, they said.

“It could still help Kansas and maybe hurt Missouri to the same extent,” Zimbalist said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”

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