Don’t Freak Out About The Chiefs Leaving Missouri … Yet

Written By JR Duren on May 3, 2022
KC Chiefs stay in Missouri

Kansas, we love how hard you’re trying to turn Arrowhead Stadium into a vacant lot, but you’re going to have to try harder.

The latest push by Kansas lawmakers to create a sports betting bill that would generate substantial revenue to build new pro sports stadiums has some Missourians scared that the Kansas City Chiefs will jump ship.

But there’s plenty to be optimistic about when Arrowhead’s lease expires in 2031.

There is hope to soon make legal sports betting in Missouri a reality, and the Show-Me State has the upper hand in keeping the Chiefs home.

Kansas trying to steal Chiefs with big money

Over the past two months, Missouri lawmakers have watched Kansas lawmakers work furiously to pass a sports betting bill that would devote up to 80% of sports betting revenue to build new stadiums for professional sports teams. That bill is now at the governor’s desk and is likely to pass.

Why is this dangerous to Missourians who love their football? Because there are three things that NFL owners love: Super Bowl rings, new stadiums, and cities or states willing to pay for new stadiums.

There will always be exceptions to this rule — Los Angeles Rams Owner Stan Kroenke privately financed the construction of SoFi Stadium after he moved the team from St. Louis. But, in most cases, owners want free or nearly-free stadiums.

However, getting a city or state to finance a stadium is a tough sell.

The Los Angeles Chargers are the prime example. Owner Dean Spanos wanted a new stadium, and he wanted San Diego to help finance it.

The city battled back and forth over funding and development.

It was ugly.

The stadium proposal went to a vote, and voters said “No.” So, Spanos took the team to Los Angeles.

Could that happen to Missouri? Not exactly.

Missouri offers renovations at Arrowhead to keep Chiefs at home

There are a few things working in Missouri’s favor.

First, the Chiefs know that Missourians are willing to financially back the team.

Taxpayers pitched in $250 million for renovations to Arrowhead in 2010. That kind of support tells higher-ups like Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt that the team has the city’s support.

Second, the Chiefs and Kansas City Royals share a sports complex.

The Royals’ Kauffman Stadium is nearly 50 years old and is among the oldest stadiums in the league. The Royals are contractually obligated to stay at the Truman Complex until 2030.

Despite that, there are already talks of the Royals moving to downtown KC. The Downtown Council of Kansas City envisions a new downtown Royals stadium.

Or if Kansas lawmakers lure the Royals to the other side of the Missouri River, that would open up valuable real estate for the Chiefs. And that, Hunt said at the end of March, would be a big deal.

Hunt told Sports Illustrated:

“One of the great things about the sports complex is how big it is and that’s created the opportunity for our fans to have the tremendous tailgate experience that they have before the game each week so we’re fortunate to have that kind of built-in experience already. Obviously, if the Royals weren’t playing at the sports complex, it would open up more space and maybe allow us to do some more programming that we haven’t done in the past.”

Third, Chiefs President Mark Donovan said that, amid all the considerations the Chiefs are making about the team’s future location, he is weighing the idea of tearing down Arrowhead and building a new stadium on site.

Governor, KC mayor adamant about keeping Chiefs in MO

The prospect of the Chiefs leaving Missouri for Kansas has sparked some territorialism from key political figures in the state.

For one, Gov. Mike Parson is having none of it. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he was confident the Chiefs would stay put.

Parson said:

“Missouri has been home to the Kansas City Chiefs for nearly 60 years, and we don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. My administration and I have a great working relationship with the Chiefs organization, and this will not change.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has also been vocal about keeping the chiefs, too. After sports reporter Kevin Clark parroted a March 29 tweet from the St. Louis Business Journal that indicated the Chiefs were exploring options in Kansas, Lucas fired back.

“Kansas City has proudly hosted the Chiefs since the early 1960s,” he tweeted. “We look forward to working with the Chiefs, our state of Missouri partners, and local officials to ensure the Chiefs remain home in Kansas City and Missouri for generations to come.”

A few days later, Lucas noted that any big future developments in the city need to be better integrated into the surrounding communities via “walkable and multimodal transit.” In that tweet, he included this confident barb: “most interesting about the Chiefs moving chat (which won’t happen).”

Another interesting development is that the mayor has been vocal about bringing the Sacramento Kings to the Missouri side of Kansas City. The Kings used to play in Kansas City, so the move would make sense.

Where would the Kings play if they came home? If the city was smart about wanting to keep the Chiefs and the Royals leave for Kansas, it would tear down Kauffman and build a new city-funded arena for the Kings.

Changes will come faster than you think

While nine years may seem like a long time, Missourians shouldn’t get comfortable.

The Rams left St. Louis a full four years before SoFi Stadium opened, which means teams may be willing to do whatever it takes to get into a stadium they love in a city that supports them.

While that may not happen to the Chiefs because they’re not moving across the country to a new city, per se, it does highlight the fact that billion-dollar stadium deals require moves to be made multiple years in advance.

Keep a close eye on when Kansas sports betting launches because the Chiefs brass will, too. Early revenue numbers will give the team a sense of how much money Kansas will have to build a new stadium, and that will likely play a role in the team’s decision.

Photo by Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
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JR Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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