Teams stress significance of April vote


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Jan 22, 2006
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Teams stress significance of April vote
‘Last chance’ to renovate Arrowhead
The Kansas City Star

Voters should not count on getting another chance to overhaul Arrowhead Stadium, two Chiefs executives say.

If the April 4 election fails, the team would realistically need to seek a new stadium, they add.

And, one of them says, that could be either here or elsewhere.

In fact, senior executives for both the Chiefs and the Royals say the teams would reject calling another election this year even to fund bare-bones improvements at Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums, an approach some opponents have advocated.

That means Jackson County would not be able to do the repairs needed under the current leases, which would go into default next year, allowing the teams to consider other options, including relocating.

“This is the last chance for voters to vote on the renovation of Arrowhead Stadium,” Jack Steadman, Chiefs vice chairman, told The Kansas City Star, adding that he is confident it will pass. “And if this doesn’t pass, then the Chiefs are going to be looking for a new stadium.”

He said the first priority would be the Kansas City area, but left open the possibility of the Chiefs moving outside the area.

Team president and owner Clark Hunt, who is increasingly taking a more prominent role in running the team, said he, too, believes defeating the overhaul would leave the Chiefs wanting a new stadium.

“I think if we do fail we would be looking at a new stadium,” he said this week.

He said the cost of renovating Arrowhead grows each year as the stadium deteriorates and construction costs soar. In addition, this is the second try at renovation. In November 2004, voters rejected a bistate proposal to upgrade the sports complex and spend millions on the arts.

Last year Clark Hunt said the Chiefs would make staying in the Kansas City area a top priority, but he declined this week to speculate on where a new stadium might be.

“We are not even having those types of discussions,” he said. “We are counting on the election succeeding.”

Team founder and owner Lamar Hunt declined to speculate on what would happen if the election failed, saying he was confident the issue would pass.

Such speculation “is self-defeating,” he said.

Steadman and Royals executive Mark Gorris also stressed they were optimistic the sales tax election to pay the bulk of $575 million to upgrade the stadiums would pass. They said approval of the 3/8-cent tax is the best plan to secure the teams for Kansas City through 2031.

They said their remarks should not be perceived as a threat but instead as a realistic view of the stadium landscape if voters were to reject transforming the sports complex.

“If this doesn’t pass, the Truman Sports Complex, as we know it, will be gone in several years,” Steadman said.

Craig Davis, one of the most vocal and visible opponents of the April election, called team officials arrogant for rejecting a proposal to approve a quarter-cent sales tax for four years to raise the funds needed to fulfill the terms of the 1990 leases. Davis said the teams are not entitled to more and are attempting to bully voters.

“I think the Chiefs have resorted to scare tactics and fear mongering by threatening to leave,” Davis said. “It is not fair play. They are using this as a lever to get something they are not entitled to.”

Opponents say they want to defeat the April measure in order to force Jackson County to hold an August or November election to fund up to $80 million in improvements required under the current leases.

Gorris, a senior vice president for the Royals, said that would not happen.

“That option assumes the Royals are ready to renegotiate another lease, and that is not the situation,” said Gorris, who oversees business operations for the Royals.

“We think their approach is not in the best interests of taxpayers or the public or particularly Royals fans.”

Unlike Steadman, Gorris left the door open to another election to overhaul Kauffman if the April ballot fails.

Gorris said he had spoken with owner David Glass and team president Dan Glass before making his comments.

However, Steadman, right hand to Lamar Hunt for almost five decades, made clear he was speaking on his own behalf as a member of the Kansas City business community for 46 years.

Clark Hunt, while stressing that the Chiefs aren’t actively seeking a new stadium, said he would defer to Steadman on that issue.

“Jack has a better feel for this process and the dynamics in Kansas City than really anybody associated with it in large part because he has been working on stadium measures in Kansas City for over 40 years,” Clark Hunt said. “Jack has a very good feel for the pulse of the community.”

Steadman said realistically the metro area has few options for building new stadiums for the Chiefs and Royals.

A stadium at Kansas Speedway would cost $700 million in today’s dollars and likely would approach $1 billion if construction started in 2010 or beyond, Steadman said.

“Realistically, Wyandotte County could not afford to build that kind of stadium,” he said. “It would take a major, major contribution on the part of the state of Kansas. …Who knows, maybe Johnson County jumps in and says, ‘We will take the Chiefs.’ ”

Steadman said the Chiefs are eager to secure their long-term future.

“We don’t want a Band-Aid approach,” he said. “We are looking for a long-term solution.”

If the April vote fails, he said, “I do not envision any short-term solution that would be acceptable to the Kansas City Chiefs because the lease clearly states that the county will keep the stadiums state of the art. And they are not state of the art and they are not even close to state of the art.”

Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields said Steadman’s statements were no surprise.

Team officials repeatedly have indicated to her and other officials that the possibility of the county losing one or both teams is real if the election fails, she said.

“I believe Jack Steadman has spoken the truth,” she said. “This is our last chance to have renovated stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex.”


First glance

■ Chiefs and Royals executives say if the April 4 sales tax election for stadium upgrades fails, they would reject a ‘bare-bones’ improvements package.

■ If voters turn down the proposal, the Chiefs are likely to seek a new stadium, with the first priority being in the KC area.

■ The Royals left the door open for another vote on major improvements at Kauffman.
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