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Archive for Friday, December 23, 2005

Chiefs, Royals support renovations

New 25-year leases would require $575 million in improvements for Kansas City sports complex

December 23, 2005

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— The Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals signed letters of intent Thursday for new 25-year leases that would require $575 million in renovations to their two stadiums.

Jackson County voters must first approve a three-eighth-cent sales tax to pay for $425 million of the improvements. County officials say they plan to hold a vote on the tax April 4.

The teams would contribute $100 million and cover any cost-overruns, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development said in a letter it would support providing up to $50 million in tax credits.

"What a Christmas present we're getting," said Michael Smith, chairman of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, which owns the stadiums and leases them back to the two teams.

The list of improvements to the 33-year-old Arrowhead Stadium and the 32-year-old Kaufmann Stadium doesn't include a retractable roof - for now.

The NFL told Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt last month that it would give Kansas City a Super Bowl if it found a way to protect Arrowhead from the Midwestern winter. Early proposals call for a rolling-style roof that could start at $100 million.

"You need to give us a solid number," Smith said. "I'm not going to the voters with another open-ended contract."

Under the new leases, which still must be drawn up and signed by Jan. 16, Kaufmann would receive $250 million in repairs and renovations, with the Royals contributing $25 million, the state providing $12.5 million in tax credits and the taxpayers paying $212.5 million.

Arrowhead would receive $325 million in upgrades, requiring $75 million from the Chiefs, $37.5 million from the state in tax credits and $212.5 million from taxpayers.

The new leases would replace agreements now expiring in 2014. The teams have warned that Jackson County, which is way behind on necessary repairs to the two stadiums, could be in default of their leases by the end of next year.

While neither team has threatened to leave the area for another market, that possibility has been a powerful weapon in the public-relations efforts of local officials gathering support for costly repairs.

Last year, voters in five metro Kansas City counties were asked to approve levying a quarter-cent sales tax for at least 12 years, expected to raise up to $1.2 billion. About $360 million would have gone to cover renovations at Kaufmann and Arrowhead, with the teams agreeing to extend their leases with the county through 2030 and kicking in $65 million if the tax passed.

Another $50 million would have gone for a downtown performing arts center and the rest would have paid for local and regional art programs. The so-called Bistate II measure passed in Jackson County but failed in the other four as voters said they were concerned about the projects' price tags, the lack of specifics for the arts programs and resentment of the teams' owners asking for handouts.

County and sports authority officials acknowledged Thursday that many of those concerns are still out there, especially for Jackson County voters who may object to paying for stadiums frequented by residents throughout the area.

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