Just a few months ago, the owners of the KC Current women’s soccer team said they wouldn’t seek public money to fund construction of their $70 million stadium. Now, that’s changed.
The team asked the Kansas City Council to apply for $6 million in state tax incentives. And the price tag for the stadium — the first of its kind in the country — has risen to $117 million.
Team representatives on Wednesday presented their proposal to a council committee. They said they are adding about $47 million in costs and another 500 seats (11,500 total) to the stadium, expected to open along Berkley Riverfront park for the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League season. The cost was $70 million when the stadium was first announced in October.
At that announcement, the team’s owners stressed that the stadium would be privately funded. The team is co-owned by Angie and Chris Long and Brittany Mahomes. Developers are now seeking $6 million in state tax credits. Under legislation the council is considering, the city would apply for those credits on behalf of the team.
Councilman Eric Bunch, District 4, said he was “adamant” that the ordinance not include local tax incentives.
Bunch, who is sponsoring the measure, said he supports it because it’s not local tax dollars and it helps reinvest tax revenue back into Kansas City.
“For me, it was a win-win,” Bunch said. “We’re not doling out local incentives and we’re having the state come in and help us out.”
Bunch said he didn’t remember whether the team said the stadium would be “totally privately funded,” just that there was no intent to ask for local incentives.
“I’m not hung up on whether they said 100% private or not,” Bunch said. “I think that the story for me is that it’s an exciting thing and the state’s willing to invest in it and invest in Kansas City.”
In October, when asked to confirm that none of the costs associated with construction of the stadium would be shouldered by taxpayers, Chris Long said, “We’ve got assurances, for sure, on that.
“Our other day-job is a firm called Palmer Square Capital Management, where that’s what we do,” he continued, “(We) invest and finance it so we have a leg up, relative to most of our peers in this equation.”
Roshann Parris, whose public relations firm represents the team, told The Star the tax credits would “support infrastructure, public amenities, and other activities required” to prepare the site. She said the owners have expanded their vision and programming to also allow the stadium to hold other events, including professional sporting games, concerts and college and youth tournaments.
Parris said the ownership’s private investment increased to about $112 million.
“This represents a commitment to building a world-class fan experience for Kansas Citians and is an unprecedented financial investment in support of women’s sports,” Parris said in an email.
The price increase is also due to higher construction and material costs. It also includes other development and financing expenses, she said.
Parris said the project will also have elements such as a riverfront bar and pavilion that will be open to the public year-round.
The legislation, which will be discussed again in the Neighborhood Planning and Development committee next week, allows the city manager to apply to the Missouri Development Finance Board for the tax credits.
Assistant City Manager Kerrie Tyndall told the committee there was no financial commitment on the city’s part.
“This is simply kind of similar to a letter of support for someone taking something forward to be considered,” Tyndall said.
The project is expected to create new jobs both during construction and once the stadium opens, Tyndall said.
Judd Treeman, an attorney with the Stinson law firm representing the project, told the committee that the state board will “hold our feet to the fire” on the economic impact of the development.
He said they have to prove the tax credits are a critical piece of funding: “It’s not icing; it’s cake.”
And without the tax credits, Treeman said, “the project will suffer in scope, in timing, perhaps in programmatic organization.”
Councilman Brandon Ellington, District 3 at-large, said that even though there was no “overt or obvious fiscal commitment” on the part of the city, he wanted to have more information. He also criticized the team’s presentation to the committee, which contained just one slide of information and five renderings.
“It would still be best for us to have knowledge of what we’re voting on as opposed to a coloring book that is already colored,” Ellington said.
Tyndall said more information about the project will come to council throughout the process.
Bunch told The Star he’s excited about both bringing “new life” to the area and about the energy around the team.
“I want Kansas City to be known as the first for something,” Bunch said.
The stadium, with a groundbreaking set for this fall, will be the first one built specifically for an American women’s professional soccer team. Games are currently played at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The owners are also building a $15 million training facility for the NWSL team.
It comes as Kansas City embraces women’s soccer, and more people are tuning in to watch games than before. The league reported in November that viewership for the NWSL championship increased 216% from the 2019 match.
The Current are also set to be the first professional team in a sport’s highest level to play in downtown Kansas City since 1985, when the NBA’s Kansas City Kings left.
The Royals are also exploring a downtown ballpark, with two sites dominating conversations: one in the East Village and another near the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District.