Kansas leaders and new group ramp up efforts to lure the Kansas City Chiefs from Missouri

Top Kansas legislators have intensified efforts to woo the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs by offering to let the professional football franchise shape a plan for using state bonds to finance a new stadium in Kansas

John Hanna
Wednesday 05 June 2024 01:35 BST
Chiefs New Stadium Kansas
Chiefs New Stadium Kansas (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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Top Kansas legislators have intensified efforts to woo the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs by offering to let the professional football franchise shape a plan for using state bonds to finance a new stadium in Kansas.

Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins and Senate President Ty Masterson said in a statement Tuesday that the Legislature would consider the proposal during a special session set to convene June 18. They invited the Chiefs “to weigh in on" the plan in a letter May 23 to Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, with the leaders released Tuesday.

Their actions came as a new Kansas nonprofit group, Scoop and Score, launched a campaign for bringing the Chiefs from Missouri to Kansas. The group started an online petition aimed at the Legislature, sent texts saying the Chiefs “deserve a permanent home in Kansas,” and registered 20 lobbyists to represent it at the Statehouse, including a former House speaker and some of the state's most prominent contract lobbyists.

Kansas officials saw an opening in early April after voters on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area decisively refused to extend a local sales tax used to keep up the complex housing the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium, home to professional baseball’s Kansas City Royals.

“Your insights and expertise are invaluable in shaping the success of this project,” Hawkins and Masterson said in their letter. “Your organization’s stature and experience in professional sports will help shape our understanding and ensure that this initiative aligns with the interests of all stakeholders involved.”

The lobbyists who registered to represent Scoop and Score included Ron Ryckman Jr., a Kansas City-area businessman who served as Kansas House speaker from 2017 through 2022. His former legislative chief of staff, Paje Resner, also registered, and she was listed as the group’s incorporator when it filed its articles of incorporation with the state on May 13.

Hunt told reporters in April that the Chiefs would take “a broader perspective” about the team’s future home after the vote in Missouri. The Chiefs had hoped to use their share of the local sales tax to help pay for an $800 million renovation of Arrowhead.

The plan favored by Hawkins, Masterson and other members of the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature would pay off bonds for a new stadium with sales and alcohol tax revenues generated in a designated area around the stadium. It would be similar to how the state and officials in Kansas City, Kansas, financed construction of NASCAR's Kansas Speedway and an adjacent shopping and entertainment district.

“We are poised to make the Kansas City Chiefs even stronger,” Hawkins and Masterson said in their letter. “It also promises to be a victory for Kansas taxpayers and a game-changer for our state’s economy.”

Some legislators were pushing a similar proposal to build new stadiums in Kansas for both the Chiefs and the Royals before lawmakers adjourned their annual session May 1, but the plan never came to a vote. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly called the special session to consider broad tax cuts after vetoing three previous tax plans, but legislators can consider whatever they want.

The earlier stadium-financing proposal faced opposition from Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, a small-government, low-tax group long against the use of such bonds and influential with Republicans. Critics have argued that using the bonds for big projects represents the state picking economic winners and losers instead of the free market.

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