Jefferson City. Mo. A state board signed off on a plan Thursday to provide $50 million in tax breaks for renovations to the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals stadiums.
A legislative proposal to direct money to the stadiums from the state's income tax on athletes and entertainers failed last year, so Gov. Matt Blunt backed a new plan to help fund the projects through these tax breaks.
Instead of going through the Legislature, it took approval by the state Department of Economic Development, which already has been obtained, and the Missouri Development Finance Board.
After hearing a presentation by Jackson County officials, the board approved the state aid to the $575 million project without a dissenting vote.
The stadium deal calls for the Royals and Chiefs to come up with a total of $100 million themselves, plus $425 million from Jackson County and $50 million from the state.
To cover the local share of funding, Jackson County voters in April passed a 3/8-cent sales tax to renovate the stadiums, ensuring the teams would remain in Kansas City for at least 25 years.
Jackson County Executive Katheryn Shields told the board it was important when promoting the tax to local voters that "there was a commitment from the state of Missouri to see these teams remain in the state."
Analysts estimated the stadiums generate $6.1 million a year in state tax revenues - money supporters say is important to keep in Missouri. The stadium construction is projected to bring in an additional $5.7 million a year in state tax revenue for the three years while the renovations are being completed.
The $50 million in state tax credits can be spread out over up to four years, starting with the state fiscal year that begins Saturday. The Chiefs will get $37.5 million of the tax breaks and the Royals the remainder.
Rural Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, told the board he opposes spending state money for nicer stadiums when people have concerns such as how to pay for college or medical care.
"Many people from my district have much more pressing needs," he said. "You have set this state's priorities for tax revenue in the future."
Shoemyer sponsored failed legislation that would have prohibited the board from authorizing state tax credits directed at sports stadiums, essentially forcing such aid to be approved by legislators.
Acknowledging some people have concerns, Jack Craft, an attorney representing Jackson County, thanked the board for its support. "I know stadium projects are not the most popular things you can be engaged in," he said.
Some board members expressed concern that while the Chiefs committed to providing 800 tickets a year for charitable groups outside the Kansas City or St. Louis areas, the Royals hadn't yet agreed on an amount.
Mark Gorris, the Royals' senior vice president of business operations, first told the board the team would provide 3,500 tickets a year for charitable groups outside the Kansas City area, but he upped the level to 5,000 during discussions.
But some board members want the team to give away 10,000 tickets, saying the stadium rarely sells out anyway and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to donate that many when developing a new ball park in a city that regularly fills its stadiums.
The state board asked it's staff to work with the Royals to get closer to 10,000 donated tickets.
"If there's seats available, we ought to try to put a body in them for people that can't normally attend," said board member John Starr.