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Gov. Laura Kelly says she’s not trying to recruit the Chiefs to Kansas

Fans tailgate at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, during a Chiefs playoff game against the Jaguars in 2023.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Fans tailgate at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, during a Chiefs playoff game against the Jaguars in 2023.

Some officials in Kansas are trying to get the Kansas City Chiefs to move across state lines, but the governor says she's not involved.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly says she has no plans to try to recruit the Kansas City Chiefs to Kansas after voters across state lines rebuffed an effort to upgrade Arrowhead Stadium with tax dollars.

“Probably over half the people in the stands any given Sunday are Kansans,” she said. “We claim them as our team – but we recognize that it’s probably in their best interest to stay where they are, so we won’t be making any overtures to the Chiefs.”

Earlier this month, voters in Jackson County, Missouri, rejected an attempt to renew a 3/8th-cent sales tax that would have funded renovations at Arrowhead Stadium and built a new downtown Kansas City ballpark for the Royals.

That means the sales tax will end in 2031, when the leases of both sports teams are set to expire.

After the vote failed, some state leaders expressed interest in trying to get the Chiefs to relocate and build a new stadium in Kansas. Those officials included former Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican.

“Jackson County fumbled,” Ryckman told the Kansas City Star via text message. “Now there will be a mad scramble for the ball and we’re in the best position for a scoop and score.”

As for Chiefs leadership, President Mark Donovan says he remains ready to “extend the longstanding partnership the teams have enjoyed with (Jackson County).”

Kelly has previously said she would welcome the chance to get the Chiefs in Kansas. But in a recent interview with the Kansas News Service, she said she doesn’t think the state is in a financial position to successfully recruit them.

When Kansas legalized sports betting in 2022, it designated 80% of the state revenue toward attracting professional sports teams. But that fund is expected to hold $10 million by 2025 – a far cry from the billions it would take to build a new stadium.

“My guess is we would never have more in that fund than would attract a concession stand from Arrowhead – much less the Chiefs,” Kelly said. “So I don’t think it’s going to happen."

Ryckman has not publicly elaborated on his statement, but he did point to sports gambling revenue as a potential source of funding.

Kansas could also potentially fund a new stadium project with STAR bonds. Those are bonds that cities can issue for major attractions and pay off with future sales tax revenue generated by the projects.

Proponents of STAR bonds say they boost the economy by helping attract businesses to Kansas that otherwise would not come.

But a recent report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, which studies the impact of common legislation across the U.S., indicates government-supported stadium projects don’t always meet their promises of economic prosperity.

For example, supporters often point to new jobs as a reason to give government funds or tax breaks for stadium projects. But the report says the quality of those jobs is often overlooked.

“The quality of the jobs, such as those of stadium workers, (is) questionable,” the report says. “Game-day personnel positions are low wage, temporary and part-time.”

Calen Moore of the Kansas News Service contributed to this report.

Daniel Caudill reports on the Kansas Statehouse and government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can email him at dcaudill@ku.edu.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Daniel Caudill reports on Kansas state government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service.