Politics

Taxpayers Refuse To Pay New Stadium Expenses for Billionaire Sports Owners

Taxpayers in Jackson County, Missouri, voted on Tuesday to discard a sales tax to finance stadium renovations for the Kansas City Chiefs and the construction of a new stadium for the Kansas City Royals.

Even in the face of threats by owners to leave the city if the initiative failed, voters rejected the dodgy campaign to keep the 3/8-cent sales tax, which currently goes toward maintaining the Truman Sports Complex and was slated to raise around $2 billion worth of public funds over 40 years.

The teams’ efforts essentially sought to exploit fan culture in service of saving private funds. Whether any tax was needed is doubtful when considering the owner of the Chiefs, the Hunt family, is worth billions, as well as the fact that the Royals’ current stadium was recently deemed to be in satisfactory condition. KC Tenants, a major tenant union that rallied against the sales tax, said that the tax would have been “among the largest transfers of public money to private corporations in our region’s history.”

In the past, pleas for tax support in Jackson County have worked, perhaps because they were also backed by similar threats about the sports giants leaving town. So this result is a welcome surprise. That’s especially true in the context of the national debate around this issue, where taxpayers have subsidized the Tennessee Titans, the Minnesota Vikings, the Atlanta Braves, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Buffalo Bills, and these are just in the last two years. The list goes on. 

There is a litany of reasons why voters may have rejected the proposal. The Royals’ new stadium was slated to be built in the Crossroads district—a controversial pick that would have required demolishing several small businesses.

It’s still a possibility that the Chiefs and Royals stay. “Hopefully everyone can take a deep breath, put all of the negative stuff behind us,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr., “and then come back to the table and work out a deal that’s really affable for all parties involved.”

But even if the county taxpayers end up voting in favor of an updated proposal, it doesn’t change the questionable ethics of using fan support as a tool to pay for private expenses while the profits remain nonpublic. The Kansas City teams would do well to consider the Green Bay Packers’ approach, which asks fans to voluntarily chip in—rather than trying the same taxpayer-funded strategy in a different locale.

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