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Chiefs planning for post-Royals future with potential Arrowhead Stadium renovations

With the Kansas City Royals moving forward with plans for a new sports development and ballpark closer to the center of the region, the Kansas City Chiefs are formulating what they’d like to see with more Arrowhead Stadium renovations and Truman Sports Complex changes.

That the Royals will leave Kauffman Stadium is a near-certainty: team owner John Sherman will announce a destination of downtown Kansas City or North Kansas City in September. Though nothing is imminent, that’s not stopping the Chiefs from planning for a post-Royals Truman Sports Complex.

That vision is surprisingly modest. There’s no talk of development at the sports complex, no construction of an entertainment district or development of the 220-acre Truman Sports Complex site. At one point such development would have been welcomed, but the private sector pretty much ignored such wishes. The location doesn’t make for a very appealing development site. And with the Royals departing, you won’t see the sort of foot traffic that could potentially make for viable development; NFL football is a hard product as a basis of development, and where there’s talk of an entertainment district near a football stadium, it’s because of proximity to another sporting venue (like Oriole Park, in the Camden Yards area) or other cultural draws (the Guthrie Theater joining with U.S. Bank Stadium to spur development in Minneapolis’s Downtown East area).

That’s why the Chiefs’ wish list for Arrowhead Stadium is so modest: another set of renovations to add more amenities to the 1972 stadium. The resulting facility would have the bells and whistles of a new stadium while Arrowhead Stadium renovations would retain the charm of an old-style stadium. The obvious model would be Lambeau Field, where voter-approved renovations fueled by a Brown County 0.5% sales tax keep the charm of the original 1957 facility and added plenty of modern touches. From the Kansas City Star:

If they settle on a renovation at their current complex, those blueprints do not include a roof to cover the stadium, sources told The Star. Instead, the Chiefs would aim to upgrade their stadium, particularly fan and VIP experiences inside the joint, while trying to preserve its 76,000 capacity. They have also identified improvements to their tailgating, parking and ingress and egress to and from the stadium. Those inside the organization are quick to point out the upkeep of a half-century-old stadium can grow expensive too.

While the Royals have their sights set on not only a $1 billion stadium but a privately funded $1 billion ballpark district encircling it, the Chiefs’ studies have not shown an appetite for multi-use entertainment at the Truman Sports Complex. They have analyzed the potential for a small amphitheater to host concerts, but a source poured cold water on the idea of hotels, restaurants or office space….

Oh, and then there’s the price — both to the public and the Hunt family. Don’t underestimate that factor, either. A renovation at the current site might be completed for less than $1 billion, per sources. A new stadium, which would much more likely include a dome option, could run in the neighborhood of $2.8 billion. That’s a significant difference.

When you throw a potential referendum for an extension of a Jackson County tax into the mix for the Chiefs–either with or without the Royals–things become a little more complicated; the extension won’t generate enough revenue for even a renovated Arrowhead Stadium. So while a final decision is a ways off–it will take some time to resolve the Royals’ situation–the Chiefs still face some big challenges when planning the future of Arrowhead Stadium.

Image courtesy Kansas City Chiefs.

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