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T-Bones home opener
A scene from the T-Bones home opening game in 2013 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. (File photo)
T-Bones home opener
The Unified Government today announced its intention to buy CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the home stadium of the T-Bones.
Under the proposed deal, the UG would use $8 million in Village West sales tax revenue bonds to buy and renovate the stadium.
The 10-year-old stadium, located next to The Legends at Village West in Kansas City, Kan., is currently owned by Ehlert Development. Adam Ehlert is the T-Bones owner. The stadium has 4,800 fixed seats and room for more fans on a berm and in decks.
According to a UG news release, the STAR bonds are still on track to be paid off in 2017, four years ahead of the original schedule. This purchase would take less than five months of the STAR bonds, perhaps about 90 days, according to UG officials.
“The Ehlerts moved the team from Duluth and started that move in 2002, so they built the stadium, and they’ve owned it ever since,” said Matt Fulks, T-Bones spokesman. That’s rare in sports today – usually a city or county, not the team, owns the stadium, he said.
Fulks said the T-Bones will sign a 20-year lease with the UG, when the details are approved.
The issue may go before the UG Commission in December for a public hearing, then a vote.
A letter from Adam Ehlert on the T-Bones website refers to the reasons behind the proposed sale. It says that the team has enjoyed the support of local fans for years.
"The reality, though, is that private ownership of a specialty, limited-use stadium is not sustainable,” the letter stated. “So, after this long time of private subsidization, we are now moving to a stronger partnership with our local government. “
Fulks added, “The team’s been successful, it’s just a financial burden for one family to undertake and they’ve been doing it for more than a decade.
“It would be burdensome for anyone,” he said.
The availability of the STAR bonds allows the stadium ownership to transfer to the UG and helps keep the team here for the long haul, Fulks said.
The stadium is in UG Commission District 7, represented by Jim Walters.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Walters said about the sale.
Walters and Fifth District Commissioner Mike Kane met with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback at the CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Some of the state’s STAR bond tax proceeds also will be used for the purchase.
Walters said he thinks it will receive the support of other UG commissioners. “I think it’s a good deal for the county and other commissioners will see it as well,” Walters said.
While the stadium cost more than $8 million to build in 2003, it is a little older now and needs some maintenance and upkeep, he said.
The stadium’s purpose is expected to remain the same, for baseball games. It formerly held soccer games, also. A secondary purpose could possibly be a venue for concerts, according to Walters.
“A lot of people I know really enjoy the T-Bones and have gone to a lot of games, as I have, so I think it will be well received,” Walters said.
Wyandotte County property tax records show the stadium’s appraised value in 2013 was $4,085,700. Its property tax bill for 2013 is $178,566.06, according to records.
A news release said the UG has been studying the purchase for some months and believes the T-Bones have a $5.5 million a year economic benefit to Wyandotte County. Local governments are allowed to hold closed discussions about property acquisitions under Kansas law.
"For the last 12 years we have been fortunate to have a successful baseball franchise in Kansas City, Kansas,” Mayor Mark Holland said in the news release. “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.”
According to the UG news release, the T-Bones and the stadium have an annual payroll of more than $1.5 million, and have donated more than $650,000 to Wyandotte County parks improvements. The team drew more than 265,000 fans to its games in 2013, the news release stated.