Thursday, December 19, 2013

UG one step closer to buying CommunityAmerica Ballpark


KANSAS CITY, KAN. ---- The Unified Government Board of Commissioners took one small step in formally acquiring CommunityAmerica Ballpark Thursday night.

However, work remains in finalizing an agreement.

Commissioners unanimously agreed on amending the Prairie-Delaware Redevelopment Plan Project.

Amending the plan allows the UG to purchase the ballpark if terms are agreed to between the county and Kansas City T-Bones independent league team.

The Unified Government would use $8 million in Village West Sales Tax Revenue Bonds to purchase and renovate the stadium. About $5.5 million would be used to purchase the ballpark.

More details of the proposed agreement:
  • The T-Bones and UG would have a profit-sharing agreement for non-baseball events held at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. The UG would receive 25 percent of profits.
  • High schools in Wyandotte County would be able to rent out the stadium for games at a discount price.
  • The T-Bones will continue to pay the UG 50 cents from every ticket sold.
  • The T-Bones would sign a lease with Wyandotte County for 20 years, but the county has the option of opting out after the 2015 season. 
In a presentation to commissioners, Deputy County Administrator Doug Bach said the county was at risk of losing the T-Bones if an agreement could not be reached.

He also said the ball-club generates $4.5 million in economic impact each season.

"This is money that feeds the Kansas City metro area and Wyandotte County, particularly Village West," Bach said.

Kansas City T-Bones owner Adam Ehlert called the situation a "deal in reverse," mentioning that 10 years ago, it was not possible to use STAR Bonds to fund stadiums.

"This is only unique because we were not already a public-private partnership," he said.

While there was some negative feedback when news first broke of a possible agreement, the majority of comments Thursday night from the public were positive.

Out of 17 speakers, only three offered negative remarks. And according to Unified Government Mayor/CEO Mark Holland, only one letter out of 44 from the public was against the proposal.

Still, while commissioners agreed to take the first formal step on Thursday, some votes on agreeing to the final deal are up in the air.

Commissioner Ann Murguia said she hasn't made up her mind yet on the matter, but called for more transparency as negotiations wrap up.

"It's important for this government to be open and transparent," she said. "The public is entitled to the full story.

Holland said he was optimistic about a final deal, but cautioned that the county is not ready to spend at will.

"No one is ready to write a blank check," Holland said. "The devil is in the details."

He added that an agreement was hoped for before tonight's meeting. However, a final vote is expected early next year.