Kansas City, Mo. — Jackson County voters approved a sales tax measure Tuesday that makes sure the Chiefs and Royals will stay in Kansas City another 25 years, but turned thumbs down on a separate business tax that would have put a rolling roof over both stadiums.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting outside Kansas City and 98 percent reporting in the Jackson County portion of the city itself, the three-eighth-cent sales tax passed with 53 percent of the vote, 74,800 votes to 65,718. The tax will raise $425 million over 25 years to extensively refurbish and renovate Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums.
A $200 million plan to install a rolling roof at the Truman Sports Complex failed with 48 percent. There were 72,076 "no" votes to 67,908 votes for the proposal.
Owners David Glass of the Royals and Lamar Hunt of the Chiefs both hailed the passage of the first proposal as a big victory. It was the one that had to pass to lock in the teams for another 25-year lease.
But Hunt said he was not ready to give up on the rolling roof that he first envisioned when the stadiums were built in the early 1970s. The NFL has promised the 2015 Super Bowl to Kansas City if the roof is put up.
"Naturally, I would hope the dream of the rolling roof and the Super Bowl for Kansas City can be kept alive," Hunt said.
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Glass said he would be eager to bring the roof back to the ballot in August. A decision will need to be made quickly so architectural designs can be made for the extensive renovations.
"This is a wonderful day for the Royals, the Chiefs and Jackson County," said Glass, who is also putting in $25 million of his own money. "I think the plan would be to bring the rolling roof back."
Craig Davis, who put together a political action committee against both proposals, called Tuesday's results a partial victory.
"If you look at it from afar, everybody's going to say, 'We got a little bit,' and move on," Davis said. "We're all Kansas Citians here."
Another opponent of the proposals said he was encouraged by the results.
"The opposition was heard from," said Richard Tolbert, a businessman and Democratic candidate for Jackson County executive. "I think it's important that both sides be heard."
Still, Tolbert said, "I thought we were going to whip 'em, but we'll settle for a quarter of a loaf. I can't say we got a half, but I would say we're mindful of the limits to which the taxpayer can be burdened for things that are not essential government functions."
With an additional $25 million from Glass and $75 million from Hunt, the money will go toward badly needed repair of infrastructure such as wiring and plumbing, widening concourses at the stadiums, and will add rest rooms, restaurants and halls of fame for each team.
The votes are in
53% Approved renovations at Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums
48% Defeated business tax to pay for a rolling roof at Truman Sports Complex
The money also will pay for a pavilion behind Kauffman Stadium, where baseball's Kansas City Royals play.
The rolling roof would have moved between the two stadiums, providing climate control.
The NFL had said Kansas City would get the Super Bowl in 2015 if voters approved the rolling roof, and baseball had also promised the city an All-Star Game sometime after 2010 if both measures are approved.
Supporters argued that passing both questions was the only way to guarantee Kansas City's sports future, while opponents said the teams' owners should not be asking for so much public money.
"I think athletics makes higher profits than almost any other industry," said Joyce Merrill, of Kansas City, who voted against both measures. "We don't subsidize anybody else to help them build facilities to help them make more money."
Had the sales tax measure failed, Jackson County would have gone into default on its lease with the teams on Jan. 1, 2007, and the Royals and Chiefs would be free to seek new homes elsewhere. Neither team has said it would move if the measures failed, but neither has promised to stay.