This piece has been edited post-publication with clarifying input from the Kansas City Royals.
The Kansas City Royals have been toying with the idea of a move from 50-year-old Kauffman Stadium since 2022. In November of that year, they announced plans to move and construct a new ballpark ahead of Kauffman's lease expiry in 2030, but repeatedly pushed back announcing exactly where the move might take them throughout 2023. The initial plans outlined a downtown Kansas City location, as opposed to where Kauffman currently sits, eight or so miles southeast of the center of the city.
A few more potential locations have been proposed as the Royals have continued to push their deadline for announcement — once in June, then again in September, after saying in June that plans would be made clearer by the end of the summer. Two spots were confirmed by the team in June as being of major interest; one downtown in the East Village, and another in North Kansas City in Clay County. That Clay County site has since been eliminated by the team as a consideration.
The building of a new stadium will require taxpayer money to be affordable, so a ballot measure benefitting both the Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs will go to a public referendum this year. There's been a lot of uncertainty surrounding when and where the move will actually take place for over a year now, but there are still deadlines coming up very soon that the Royals will need to meet in order to make it possible.
When is the deadline for KC Royals to announce a location for a new stadium?
After the June and end-of-summer dates were pushed back, the Royals have a new deadline to get set on a new location: Feb. 29, though Royals CEO John Sherman has said that the Royals "plan on doing it meaningfully in front of that date." A third site, in addition to the downtown and Clay County proposals, cropped up in November of last year, in the lot adjacent to where the Kansas City Star printing press building still sits, unused, making up a small portion of the overall footprint. The building is a few blocks south of the East Village, where the initial proposal was based. The team never commented on the printing press location, but it could be a potential factor in management's decision-making ahead of the deadline.
When will Jackson County residents vote on the KC Royals stadium move?
A ballot measure on "the extension of a stadium sales tax to help the Royals and Chiefs" (subscription required) who play at Arrowhead Stadium just across the lot from Kauffman Stadium at the Truman Sports Complex, will be voted on by Jackson County residents on Apr. 2. The Royals are coming down to the wire with their announcement. If they don't announce until Feb. 29, they'll only have a few months ahead of the regular season to convince local fans that the move is worth it, despite the fact that the team has had a losing record since 2017. Bobby Witt Jr.'s contract extension on Monday could be read as an entreaty to fans that ownership and management believe in the future of the franchise and want to give them a star to root for.
The move has been met with some local resistance over the past year, especially after leaked documents detailed the Royals' estimates of a continuing 2.5% increase in taxes collected by the team from the existing sales tax each year for 40 years, from 2031-2071. Jackson County, in a rebuttal, projected that the Royals would only see an annual increase of 1% of collections from the tax. The team called the county's estimates of what the overall plan would cost taxpayers "erroneous."
When will the KC Royals move into their new stadium?
If the ballot measure is passed, the team wants the new stadium to be ready by Opening Day 2028, two years before the Kauffman Stadium lease expires in 2030. Money from the tax extension is also intended to go toward the surrounding area, what Royals ownership envisions as a "ballpark district" surrounding the stadium.