The Royals (and Chiefs) Stadium Futures Could Be Hinging on this Lockout

We’re getting close to MLB owners’ supposed deadline (Monday) in which regular-season games could get canceled. Unfortunately, meetings did not go well on Saturday, as reported by Jesse Rogers of ESPN:

The owners and MLBPA continue to talk this afternoon, but the outlook is mixed, all depending on the source.

For example, Jon Heyman of MLB Network (an MLB-sponsored news source) thinks that the sides are closer to a deal than what is being reported on social media:

That being said, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Canada’s ESPN essentially) reported differently, saying that essentially Heyman’s news is just a smokescreen being thrown out there by owners in response to all the negative attention on Saturday.

I could go all day on my own personal thoughts about MLB owners and this lockout, which is diving into ridiculous and deflating territory for baseball fans at this moment.

Instead, I want to pivot and focus on how this lockout will affect not just baseball in Kansas City, but perhaps football as well.

Let’s put something out there right off the bat…

The longer this lockout goes (and the more ugly it gets), the more challenging it will be for Royals owner John Sherman to get the downtown baseball stadium he wants in the future, especially if he’s going to be relying on tax-payer money to help fund it.

There’s no question that building a downtown stadium is a priority for Sherman in his vision for the future of the Royals franchise. Back in September, after they announced the promotions of Dayton Moore and JJ Picollo, Sherman was adamant about exploring the possibility of creating a downtown stadium in the future:

The move is sensible for a variety of reasons, especially given the current landscape of baseball fandom.

For one, a downtown stadium would give the Royals their own complex, not one that they would have to share with the Kansas City Chiefs. Secondly, having a stadium downtown would be in line with the trends of a lot of baseball stadiums that have been built over the past two decades.

A downtown Royals stadium could promote better weeknight/weekday attendance, especially with those young professionals who work in the corporate world in downtown Kansas City. In addition, a downtown Royals stadium could spur better public transportation and economic development, especially with 81 games going on from March/April to September/October.

As of now, it is difficult to envision the infrastructure handling a downtown stadium. However, if corresponding work on the streetcar is completed, and better access is created so potential jams could be avoided?

Well…then a downtown stadium becomes a whole lot more enticing, especially for those Royals fans who are concerned about downtown “traffic”.

Furthermore, the Chiefs have a lot to gain with a downtown Royals stadium, and already Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt has begun thinking about the possibilities for the Truman Sports Complex around them, should the Royals make their way west down I-70:

For the Chiefs, they could take that land and create something special in Kansas City, akin to “Patriot Place” in Foxborough (the home of the New England Patriots). The Chiefs could explore creating a Chiefs-specific oasis, a Power and Light-esque attraction that is right there near GEHA Field at Arrowhead. Furthermore, perhaps a dome could be constructed to surround Arrowhead, which could make the Super Bowl a possibility for Kansas City, something that seemed unthinkable, due to Kansas City’s winter weather.

Both the Royals and Chiefs have a lot to gain, should the Royals move to downtown.

And yet, there are already a bunch of obstacles in the way.

First off, a lot of Royals fans are too tied sentimentally to Kauffman Stadium. Even with the promise of better downtown infrastructure, Royals fans seem to be against the idea of tearing down Kauffman for a downtown counterpart:

Second, Sherman in his initial talks discussed that at least “part” of the stadium would need to be publicly financed for it to be a reality. Unfortunately for Sherman and his team, there’s already progress being made in Congress to eliminate “tax breaks” for sports teams when it comes to building stadiums in their respective cities:

Thus, there are already two obstacles in the way for Sherman.

And this lockout is only making things worse for Sherman and his hopes of bringing downtown baseball to Kansas City.

David Lesky of Inside the Crown made an interesting point that the lockout costing games would hurt workers who depend on those “gameday” jobs during the year. In response, I quote tweeted the irony of his statement, especially as owners (including Sherman) justify “publicly-funded” stadiums because they bring jobs to the city and help the local economy.

I have to imagine the fallout from this lockout, especially among baseball fans, is weighing on Sherman.

Sherman so far has been a solid owner who has said all the right things since taking over for David Glass in November of 2019. There’s no question that Sherman is civically-minded and looking at the long-term in terms of building a winner in Kansas City. Is he splurging on free agents? No, but he is giving the green light to Moore to spend on player development and scouting, which in turn is already starting to see some fruits of that process over the past couple of years.

However, things are tense between owners and fans, and that goes beyond Sherman and Kansas City. The longer this lockout goes, the worse Sherman’s chances get when it comes to getting the support needed to build a downtown stadium.

There’s already enough sentiment against leaving Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City before this lockout happened.

But after lost games?

Well, it will be hard to get a lot of Royals fans to renew their season tickets and MLB TV packages, let alone support a new stadium being built with tax-payer money.

And that hurts the Chiefs and their grand plans as well.

Sure, the Chiefs are in great financial shape, but I imagine Hunt has bigger plans for the Chiefs going forward. With Patrick Mahomes and being the primary NFL team in the “heartland” of the Midwest (i.e. Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, etc.), I imagine Hunt wants the Chiefs to be as big nationally as the Green Bay Packers, a small-market team that has a national fanbase.

The Chiefs are getting there with the product on the field. They could build on that even more with a fully renovated complex that could encourage not only people in the Midwest to visit Kansas City on a football weekend but from all over the country as well. The Chiefs could be a national football “brand” up there with the Packers, Cowboys, and even Raiders.

However, there’s going to be a need for more development around Arrowhead, and that doesn’t happen if they continue to share a complex with the Royals.

And thus, I imagine Hunt isn’t happy either about the effects this lockout will have on the Chiefs’ future, even if the lockout is occurring in Major League Baseball, not the National Football League.

Sherman definitely is coming to a crossroads with this situation. Sherman could win over Kansas City baseball fans and taxpayers if he comes out and decries what’s going on in terms of owners’ negotiating tactics.

But he’s not saying anything in the public eye, which implies that he’s supporting the negotiating process of the owners.

And that’s not going to win him a new stadium for the Royals…

And it’s not going to win him a lot of supporters in general in Kansas City, especially with jaded baseball fans.

Let’s see if Sherman will do anything about that…especially if things go even more south by Monday.

Photo Credit: Ballpark Digest

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