Why do the poor and working class of Kansas City needs a strong community benefits agreement with the Royals?

A new downtown Kansas City Royals stadium could either be catastrophic for poor and working people in Kansas City, or create a pathway to good jobs and affordable housing that could advance racial and economic justice for all Kansas Citians. The Royals’ estimate the cost of the project at $2 Billion and plan to seek both public and private investment. Any public investment in a downtown stadium and/or surrounding entertainment development must entail that poor and working class Kansas Citians be brought to the table to negotiate a strong Community Benefits Agreement with clear and enforceable mandates to create good jobs, ensure that workers have the right to organize without fear of retaliation, and guaranteed investment in truly affordable housing.

The Royals estimate that the project could create 20,000 new construction jobs and 2,800 long-term service and hospitality jobs to operate and maintain the stadium and surrounding entertainment district. However, economists are widely critical of the supposed economic benefits of sports complex construction. According to a 2017 report by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, “estimations of the economic impact of sports stadiums are exaggerated because they fail to recognize opportunity costs.” That opportunity cost: investment in local infrastructure like roads and bridges, and investment in education. 

According to a report by the Wisconsin-based think-tank COWS, “when a community coalition comes to an agreement with a private developer over the terms and impact of a development project, the agreement is codified in a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). A well-structured CBA is an enforceable private agreement that is legally binding. The community shapes the project through its demands, and in exchange for the coalition’s public support of the project in the approval process, the developer commits to uphold those demands. This structure allows a private agreement to enforce public benefits.”

In a public letter addressed to “dedicated Royals Fans and the Kansas City Community,” CEO John Sherman said, “We want to make sure that we not only put a good product on the field, but have a uniquely positive impact off the field - in the community we love.” If Kansas City is going to make a significant public investment in a sports stadium, at the cost of investing in our infrastructure and education system, we expect good jobs and affordable housing opportunities that can benefit the poor and working people of our city. Bringing those most impacted by the stadium to the table to negotiate a strong Community Benefits Agreement is the first step in that process. That is how the Royals can show Kansas City that they are serious about making a positive impact on a community that we all love.

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