Kansas City votes against the Royals, A’s and Oakland remain far apart on lease

The Johns are at it again.

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One of the first tests for whether Kansas City would hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to the Royals for a new stadium was given on Tuesday night. Good news, if you’re not an employee with the Royals: the voters rejected the proposal. Neil deMause has the details and some thoughts about what might happen next over at Field of Schemes.

All it took was a little bit of math by me — a non-math person — months ago to determine that the Royals are seeking what very well may be the largest publicly subsidy in history for a new stadium and surrounding development:

For instance, in his previous letter, Sherman said that the ballpark was “expected to be $2 billion as currently envisioned.” In this one, he says the Royals will “commit in excess of $1 billion in private investment to help create transformational growth here and across the region,” which is still a little vague, but un-vagued enough for us to recognize that hey, that means the Royals are going to ask for around $1 billion in public funds for this public-private ballpark. The Allegiant Stadium for the Las Vegas Raiders, by the way, used $750 million in public funds, making it the largest bag of public money secured for a sports stadium yet. Which means the Royals might be gearing up to break that record. No wonder Sherman is trying to ease everyone into this with weird letters and “do it for Dick Howser, he’s dead, you know?” angles.

The other thing—the reason I say above that this is “still a little vague”—is that Sherman isn’t explicitly saying the Royals will commit over $1 billion in private investment to a new stadium, but to “create transformational growth here and across the region,” emphasis added. What’s the difference? Sherman could very well be trying to pick up the tab for whatever businesses are built as part of the stadium complex, businesses that could be part of the real estate subsidiary of the Kansas City Royals Baseball Corporation, the kind of move that would make any kind of private investment a whole lot easier to pay back… especially at the kind of interest rates MLB teams get when they borrow huge sums of money the banks know they’ll be able to pay back without issue. Which brings up the question of why the Royals would need around $1 billion in public money in the first place, but we know the answer to that: because then they can borrow less and make a profit faster, since public funds won’t need to be repaid.

As deMause points out, this still-unknown total of public funds that would be needed might have contributed to 58 percent of voters choosing to go against the plan as it is. Though, as was also mentioned, it probably wasn’t just that: there are a bunch of reasons, including but not limited to John Sherman being a wildly unlikable bag fumbler. The plan just being so incredibly vague likely didn’t help matters, however.

Given that the A’s rammed through their proposal in Las Vegas and Nevada without actually doing all of the work needed to relocate and build a new stadium might have caused Sherman to forget that you actually need to have, like, a plan. It’s worth pointing out, however, that the A’s pulled their trick solely by dealing directly with politicians, who are easily bribed, bullied, placated, etc., whereas Sherman’s public subsidy ask is going through regular people. Regular people who already like Kauffman Stadium, and don’t own the businesses that a new Royals’ stadium would have been dropped on top of, to be inevitably replaced by businesses owned by the Royals.

Speaking of the A’s and their inability to cross T’s and dot i’s before packing up to move, the city of Oakland and the team remain far apart on a renewal of the lease that will give the joke of a franchise somewhere to play baseball games until their new home is built. Per KRON 4, the two sides met on Tuesday night: the city of Oakland is looking for a five-year lease with an opt out for the team that begins after three years — the idea being that the two sides don’t have to come to the table ever again after this, even if the stadium takes more or less time to build than expected — with the A’s paying $97 million for the lease. Oakland also wants the A’s to give up their half of ownership of the Coliseum, while contributing to its renovations to prepare it for a life as a soccer-only venue.

In addition, the team must choose one of three options in order to close this out: give up on the team name, colors, and branding and leave them with Oakland, or, the city must “get assurances” from MLB that they’re an expansion candidate, or, the A’s can stick around for the next three to five years but John Fisher can’t, and has to sell the team to someone local.

It feels unlikely that the A’s will choose any of the three — the last, a sale, definitely isn’t happening. But, if Oakland doesn’t budge from these points, “assurances” aren’t a promise that Oakland would definitely be an expansion candidate, and giving up the team’s names and colors would at least give the team a chance to try to excite potential Vegas fans by trying to make something that is Theirs instead of so openly stolen. So, maybe there’s something there.

Normally, I’d say there’s absolutely no chance that the A’s move on any of this, and they tell the city of Oakland off once again through the media, but it’s important to remember a specific detail about this whole episode: all of the potential non-Oakland landing spots the A’s could temporarily go to are outside of their regional sports network’s coverage, meaning, they’d be sacrificing $67 million per year, for at least three years, in order to, for instance, keep a very poisoned team brand all their own. Now you want to talk about unlikely outcomes, “John Fisher willingly gives up money” is up there with the unlikeliest.

Me? I’m just waiting for the moment someone in Oakland reminds Fisher that he can easily afford to make these concessions, since MLB waived the team’s normally required relocation fee.

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