Monday, November 18, 2013

UG plans to acquire, renovate T-Bones' CommunityAmerica Ballpark


KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- The Unified Government announced Monday that it plans to purchase CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the home of the Kansas City T-Bones.

The UG will use $8 million in STAR Bonds generated from the Village West sales tax to purchase the stadium from the T-Bones ownership.

CommunityAmerica Ballpark will be renovated and the T-Bones will remain in Kansas City, Kan.

“We have been honored to be a vital and early part of the revival of Wyandotte County and a first-class asset to the Village West Entertainment district,” said Adam Ehlert, team owner and president of the T-Bones. “The purchase of ballpark by the Unified Government will ensure the stadium will continue to benefit Wyandotte County and the State of Kansas, and the T-Bones are thrilled to keep playing in one of the best ballparks in the American Association. This will only enhance the T-Bones’ family-friendly product and the facility will continue to proudly wear the CommunityAmerica Ballpark name.”

Under the agreement, the T-Bones are required to sign a "long-term lease" to remain in Wyandotte County. The terms of the lease were not available. The State of Kansas has endorsed the proposal.

A public forum will be held on the matter sometime in December.

More information from the UG:
The Unified Government, with the support and cooperation of Governor Sam Brownback and the State of Kansas, plans to use $8-million in Village West Sales Tax Revenue Bonds (STAR) to acquire and renovate the stadium which was constructed in 2003 and is privately owned by Ehlert Development. The Ehlerts also own the T-Bones baseball team.

CommunityAmerica Ballpark is one of the few privately owned stadiums in the nation. Most stadiums are owned by the city or county where they are located and leased by a team. While the T-Bones Baseball Club is financially successful, the burden of stadium ownership would not be viable for the next decade. A requirement of the stadium purchase is that the T-Bones Baseball Club signs a long-term lease to remain playing in Wyandotte County.

The Unified Government studied the possible purchase for months before moving ahead. Officials say the positive economic impact of the T-Bones playing in Wyandotte County more than justifies purchase of the stadium to keep the team here.

"For the last 12 years we have been fortunate to have a successful baseball franchise in Kansas City, Kansas,” said Mayor Mark Holland. “The Kansas City T-Bones are a fun, family-friendly, and affordable attraction for visitors and residents. We look forward to our continued partnership with this valued member of our Village West community.”

In 2013, more than 265,000 fans attended T-Bones games. The team generates more than $5.5-million a year in economic benefit for Wyandotte County. The annual payroll for local workers is more than $1.5-million. The T-Bones have also provided more than $650,000 to improve Wyandotte County parks.

The $8-million in STAR bonds to buy the stadium will require less than five months of revenue from the Village West STAR Bonds. The STAR Bonds issued to build Village West are scheduled to still be paid-off in 2017, four years ahead of the original schedule when the bonds were issued. The purchase of the stadium by the Unified Government levels the playing field with other STAR Bond supported attractions.

This STAR Bond investment is only a fraction of what most municipalities need for a more normalized public-private partnership.  By comparison, St. Paul, Minnesota is currently investing $68-million to build a new minor league ballpark.

The State of Kansas endorses the public ownership of the stadium and are sharing in the transaction by allowing some of the State STAR Bond sales tax revenues to be used toward the purchase.

The Unified Government Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the issue in December.