The Kansas City Royals reveal plans for a new stadium in the Crossroads Arts District

Kansas City-based Populous released this rendering Feb. 13 of the Kansas City Royals’s proposed new stadium in the Crossroads. (Populous /courtesy Kansas City Royals)

Several blocks in the east Crossroads could be demolished if a stadium sales tax is approved by voters April 2

Over the last few years, the Kansas City Royals have considered about a dozen potential sites for their new stadium — from the East Village to 18th and Vine. On Feb. 13, the team announced plans for a $2 billion ballpark project in the East Crossroads, on the site of the former Kansas City Star printing press at 1601 McGee Street.

“Today we are at a crossroads. In fact, we’re here to talk about THE Crossroads, and our intention to make it the new home of the Kansas City Royals,” said chairman and CEO John Sherman at the press conference at Kauffman Stadium.

Populous, the Kansas City-based architectural design firm, revealed renderings for the 17.3-acre site, which includes a new stadium as well as team offices, a hotel and a residential and entertainment venue.

“The fact of the matter is, we’ve always been cognizant of this site. It never went away,” said Populous co-founder and CEO Earl Santee. “We looked at other sites over time, and this is my 23rd major league ballpark site, and it’s timing that leads you to the end, and this is the right timing for this site.”

The boundaries would extend from Grand Boulevard to Locust Street, and from Truman Road to 17th Street. A bridge will also connect the stadium to the planned $200 million South Loop Link Project over I-670.

“The arts, music, the food, and the drink,” said Sherman during the announcement. “I believe in my gut the timing is right for the Royals to become residents of the Crossroads and neighbors to Power and Light, 18th and Vine, and Hospital Hill, helping to further connect the cultural center of our great city.”

Voters on April 2 will decide about extending the 3/8th-cent stadium sales tax for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals — for the next 40 years. If approved, the funds are expected to support a new Royals ballpark and renovations to Arrowhead Stadium, as well as operations and stadium maintenance.

There have been a lot of twists and turns, including the process of even getting the sales tax renewal on the spring ballot by the Jan. 23 deadline. In January, the Royals had not yet selected a site for their new ballpark.

The Jackson County Legislature on Jan. 8 passed an ordinance by an 8-1 vote to put the sales tax on the ballot. Then, about two weeks later, Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. vetoed it.

“There is no clear understanding or assurance regarding the teams’ commitments and contributions to the county,” White said in a statement about the veto. “It’s not a good deal for taxpayers and I cannot support an agreement that is not in their best interest.”

White appeared to have the support of the majority of legislators to sustain the veto — and keep the sales tax off the ballot — until a flurry of last-minute conversations and negotiations. The Royals and the Chiefs also ran ads asking area residents to contact the Jackson County legislators.

On Jan. 22, by a 7-2 vote, legislators decided to override White’s veto.

“Kansas City is a major-league city,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas in a statement. “We are proud of this step in keeping it that way.”

Some business owners and residents of the Crossroads Arts District would also like to keep their corner of Kansas City the way it is.

Green Dirt on Oak. The Pairing. The Mercy Seat. The Harlow. Resurrection Downtown.

These are just a few of the businesses located in Crossroads buildings that could be torn down if Jackson County residents approve the 3/8th-cent stadium sales tax on the April 2 ballot and the proposed plan for a new Royals stadium gets underway.

John Pryor owns Madison Flitch, a studio and art gallery at 507 E. 16th Street. The business, which makes high-end leather goods and furniture, got its start on the west side of the Crossroads.

In the fall of 2019, Pryor relocated to the East Crossroads, an area now dense with retail, restaurants and arts-related businesses, including Arts Tech, Vulpes Bastille, and Dance Fit Flow.

“Over here,” he said, “we had an opportunity to buy the building, which made us property owners.” He added that the area is “a little more experimental, new, not quite as established, simply because the rents were cheaper.”

Because of the low costs, he said, it allows “things to organically develop in the area around the arts. That’s kind of what makes it special.”

The proposed footprint for the Kansas City Royals site in the Crossroads could stretch 17.3 acres. (Populous /courtesy Kansas City Royals)

Transit advocate David Johnson, a board member and past president of the Crossroads Community Association, moved to the Crossroads nearly 20 years ago. Johnson is concerned about demolishing buildings and tearing down “the fabric of the neighborhood.”

“Crossroads has shown a strong emphasis on adaptively reusing buildings that would normally be torn down in most neighborhoods,” he said, “and have been repurposed for small entrepreneurial businesses of all types, creative spaces, and offices.”

Johnson describes the Crossroads as “diverse, entrepreneurial, creative, and small scale,” and he argues that a ballpark doesn’t fit that.

“And that’s not an argument to not put it in the East Crossroads,” he said. “That’s just to say, ‘Let’s have the conversation about what the ballpark could do to embrace that.’ I think if you were to put this in any other neighborhood in Kansas City that would be a required part of the conversation.”

That conversation started in January. Royals leadership reached out to the Crossroads Community Association on Jan. 22 — the same day the Jackson County Legislature overrode County Executive Frank White Jr.’s veto.

“So the conversation has started,” said Johnson by email on Jan. 22. “We are very focused on protecting small business owners in the path of any East Crossroads proposal.”

The path of the proposed stadium, as of the Feb. 13 announcement, now includes nearly 40 parcels of land in the hands of about 20 property owners. According to Brooks Sherman, the Royals’s president of business operations, “negotiations are underway now” and the parcels are expected to be assembled “in short order.”

Shortly after the Royals revealed their plans, the Crossroads Community Association released a statement about hosting an upcoming in-person conversation. The organization listed ongoing issues to discuss with the community, local government, and the Royals, including “embracing the culture that put the Crossroads Arts District on the map.”

The Royals hope to open a new venue in time for opening day in April 2028.

Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer and audio producer. Previously, she was an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3, the NPR affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri, for over 20 years.

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