Voters Reject Chiefs Stadium Measure

The Chiefs and Royals’ joint effort to secure separate goals did not succeed Tuesday night. Voters in Jackson County (Mo.) shot down the measure that would have produced funding for a Royals downtown stadium and greenlit the Chiefs an $800MM package to renovate Arrowhead Stadium.

A vote of 58-42 percent (78,352-56,606) represented the final tally against the two teams. To some degree, this situation differs from the developments that led the Chargers and Raiders out of their respective cities during the 2010s. Though, Clark Hunt and Chiefs president Mark Donovan both indicating the team would potentially explore options outside of Kansas City reminded of those that keyed half the AFC West to relocate years ago.

This vote brings about more of a long-range issue for the Chiefs, as they and the Royals are tied to leases with the Truman Sports Complex through Jan. 31, 2031. But some near-future questions figure to arise from Jackson County voters passing on the sales-tax extension put forth by western Missouri’s NFL and MLB franchises. Despite the Chiefs having renovated Arrowhead in 2010, Hunt cited the venue’s age — the team moved into its current digs in 1972 — as the reasoning for seeking another round of updates.

We respect the process. We respect the decision of the Jackson County voters,” Donovan said in a statement Tuesday night. “We’re disappointed. We feel we put forth the best offer for Jackson County. We were ready to extend the longstanding partnership that the teams have enjoyed with this county. This is important. … We will do and look to do what is in the best interest of our fans and our organization as we move forward.”

The Chiefs have been in Kansas City since 1963, moving from Dallas months after their 1962 AFL championship win over the Oilers. Long-term stays have not proven to bind teams to their cities throughout NFL history. Ten of the NFL’s 32 franchises have left their original markets. This includes the Browns bolting Ohio after a 49-year stay (before the NFL handed Cleveland an expansion team in 1999) and the Rams leaving Los Angeles after 48 years (a move sandwiched between the team exiting Cleveland and then departing St. Louis). The Chargers camped in San Diego for 56 years. They left for L.A. in January 2017, moving just two months after the downtown stadium vote failed. Stadium issues drove the Raiders out of Oakland twice.

Hunt’s team making plans to leave a market after 60-plus years would bring new territory in terms of duration, and inroads toward such a move would still qualify as surprising. Regardless of team success in markets, NFL history certainly illustrates how these situations can deteriorate quickly.

The Chiefs were planning to contribute $300MM toward the $800MM for renovations, with a Royals departure for a downtown venue clearing out space for the NFL club. If the teams are to regroup on a Kansas City-based solution, some tweaks will need to be made. Hunt, however, previously said he did not have a Plan B if the sales-tax extension did not pass.

The people of Kansas City and Jackson County love the Chiefs and the Royals. Today, they rejected plans and processes they found inadequate,” said Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas, who had endorsed the tax extension. “Over the months ahead, I look forward to working with the Chiefs and Royals to build a stronger, more open, and collaborative process that will ensure the teams, their events and investments remain in Kansas City for generations to come.”

The Royals’ effort to move downtown relegated the Chiefs’ stadium situation to a secondary matter; the MLB club’s stadium switch would have brought major changes to a popular area in Kansas City. The Chiefs effectively attaching their renovation plan — which would not have taken effect until 2027, after the 2026 FIFA World Cup stops through Arrowhead — to the Royals’ potential move certainly hurt the NFL team’s chances Tuesday. Players like Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and former World Series MVP Salvador Perez appeared on an ad endorsing the measure, along with Andy Reid. The efforts going for naught will introduce some uncertainty into the teams’ futures, though it is still a bit early to envision either leaving town.

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