Is the Royals’ list of KC stadium sites growing? A third option is making a late push

Peter Aiken/file photo/USA TODAY Sports

Years into a pursuit to take their baseball team downtown — ahem, in or around downtown — the Kansas City Royals’ vision of a new stadium might still be open to taking yet a different turn.

A turn south, to be more precise.

The Royals have spent recent weeks quietly analyzing the possibility of a ballpark location along downtown Kansas City’s south loop after they were approached once more about the concept, sources told The Star. The area, which currently includes the former KC Star printing press pavilion at 1601 McGee Street, is a site that was originally pitched to the team at least eight months ago.

And rejected. Initially.

But evidently not permanently.

It is not a site, you might note, that the organization included among its two finalists this summer. It was in June that team president Brooks Sherman first revealed to The Star that the team had narrowed its options to two — the East Village area outside City Hall in Jackson County, or across the river in North Kansas City and Clay County.

The Royals later held a news conference unveiling renderings for each location and declared they’d decide between the two by the end of September.

Six weeks after that self-imposed deadline passed, we’re talking about whether their list has expanded, not shrunk — which doesn’t exactly suggest they are on the verge of committing to any location in the near future.

The potential of a south loop address would present the same hurdle that has proven tallest during their pursuit of a new home: This site is in Jackson County, where it would probably be kind to characterize the negotiations with county executive Frank White as slow-moving. Thus, as the Royals try to gain support for the project, they’ve left unknown the exact nature of the project for which they’ll want that support.

Or where it will go.

A renewed pitch prompted the Royals to take a step backward and re-survey the logistics of the former Star press site. While some have underscored the fact that there has still been considerably more work done at the East Village and North Kansas City locations overall, the Royals have re-focused their discussions with notable officials to determine the former Star site’s viability, sources said.

The Kansas City Star vacated the green glass building in 2021. It is now owned by the Privitera family, who tried to sell the Royals on the concept as far back as spring training.

The complexities and lure of the location sprout from the same roots: what already exists there. If the site is eventually selected, it would not require the construction of a full $1 billion ballpark village in order to feel as though it’s in the heart of the action.

It’s already there.

Sandwiched between the Crossroads District and the Power & Light District downtown, a ballpark on McGee could feed into those existing entertainment venues, along with retail and restaurant options, rather than requiring the construction of new entertainment options that the team has not provided evidence Kansas City has the appetite to support.

Last week, Royals owner John Sherman and team president Brooks Sherman, who are not related, were scheduled to meet with Mayor Quinton Lucas at Populous, the chosen designers for the new Royals ballpark, in a gathering that also included Blake Cordish, records obtained by The Star show.

Cordish is a principal at the Cordish Companies, the developer behind Kansas City’s Power & Light District and One Light, Two Light and Three Light luxury apartments. The company has developed several sports-anchored districts across the country. It is the first time any member of the company has been publicly identified as being involved in the Royals’ stadium meetings.

It’s not apparent who conducted that meeting. The Star’s attempts to reach Cordish were not immediately successful.

It is notable that the Mayor’s office classified recent talks as “productive and increasingly concrete,” though without elaborating on site. They declined comment on the discussion of a new site.

The Cordish Companies would certainly stand to benefit from a location along the south loop, considering its proximity to Power & Light, as opposed to an East Village blueprint that includes the construction of a $1 billion ballpark district viewed by many as closer to competition than complementary. The connection between a stadium in the south loop area and P&L would be fostered and eased by the ongoing plans for a new $200 million park over Interstate 670.

The draw, in that case, is quite simple: Location. It brings the Royals to downtown Kansas City rather than asking the flavor of downtown Kansas City to stretch to the Royals. There are other logistics — such as water, sewer and even parking — that are seen as more surmountable obstacles.

The headline of the complications, on the other hand: Land acquisition. In March, after The Star published a story detailing its former press pavilion as a location pitched to his team, owner John Sherman said, “You have one owner of the Star (building) itself, but there are a lot of things around it, and it wouldn’t be as efficient to buy the land.” The site also likely represents tighter quarters than the other two options.

If there is further progress made on the possibility, the project’s overall price tag could apparently be lower than previously outlined. That’s because a less ambitious ballpark village would be constructed surrounding the stadium itself.

But lower for whom?

The Royals, who declined comment for this piece, previously pledged to absorb the cost of the estimated $1 billion entertainment district — in fact, they made it part of their ongoing sales pitch to fans and prospective voters who will eventually have their own chance to weigh in on their desire for the team to leave its current home at Kauffman Stadium.

How would it affect, if at all, the team’s ask of taxpayers if they opt for the south loop as opposed to East Village or North Kansas City?

Recent conversations with the Royals and political leaders have focused on a the renewal of the 3/8-cent sales tax in Jackson County. The resulting finances would be split with the Chiefs, an important party in that conversation. The Chiefs have been publicly consistent in stating their intentions to renovate Arrowhead Stadium rather than build new, though they haven’t subtracted any options from the table — chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said this month they are waiting on the Royals, who remain tied up with the county.

And waiting.

And waiting.

The Royals have encountered clogged negotiations with Jackson County. Those talks have imbued the situation with more pushback than progress. While it would be inaccurate to describe Frank White Jr., a longtime former Royals star whose number is retired by the team, as the lone political voice not to publicly endorse the Royals’ request for taxpayer money, both his current position and former position amplify the reverberation of his voice behind closed doors. And the Royals are intent on having him on board.

They are also seeking city and state funding for the project, another still-to-be-determined element. It’s not clear how a stadium in the south loop would alter those needs, if at all. The former Star site conversation has not reached the stage of knowing with certainty an exact venue location in the area, nor all the surrounding land required to make it feasible. But it’s known that it would come with its own set of challenges in that realm.

If the Royals seek to fully vet the possibility of the location, it’s also unclear how long that process might take — and therefore how long it would yet again delay their original deadline, and therefore how that would alter the plans of their current NFL neighbors at the Truman Sports Complex, the Chiefs.

The two teams are targeting an April 2024 ballot measure, which comes with a mid-January deadline.

“Over the past several weeks, the city and the Kansas City Royals have engaged in productive and increasingly concrete discussions related to the potential of a new Royals stadium in downtown Kansas City,” said Morgan Said, Lucas’ chief of staff, when asked to confirm those discussions have reached the city level.

“The Mayor will continue to work with the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs and Jackson County to accelerate decisions around site selection.

“As he has said time and again, Kansas City has been home to the Kansas City Royals since the team’s inception, and he expects the Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs to remain in Kansas City for generations to come.”