What do we know? There is a proposed preliminary agreement, and the Royals have signed off on it. The Sarpy County Board is interested in it, but won't vote on the preliminary agreement until next week. We also know the parameters of how much Sarpy County and the Royals think this will cost, and what the Royals intend to contribute to this agreement.
What don't we know? Where the ball park would be located, and how Sarpy County will pay for it.
The Royals have agreed to pay $350,000 during the development phase, $2 million during the construction phase, and $450,000 a year (with inflation adjustments periodically) for 25 years. The stadium is expected to cost $20.3 million, though site preparation and acquisition costs could stretch the bill upwards of $26 million. The stadium will be financed through bonds. The stadium is expected to seat around 6,000 fans.
Some people have reported that this means the Royals will pay for half of the stadium, but that appears to make the assumption that Sarpy County will pay 0% interest on the bonds. (Disclaimer: I'm not an attorney, nor an accountant. So my interpretation could also be completely wrong.) By my math, that should cover about $8.4 million of the cost, if financed at 5.5% over 25 years. ($2.3 million up front, then about $6.1 million amortized over 25 years.)
That means that Sarpy County still needs to cover $12 million to as much as $17 million as their end of the deal. They pledge not to raise property taxes for it, but it's becoming clear where Sarpy County plans to get the funds for their share of the ballpark: the taxpayers of the state of Nebraska.
Bellevue State Senator Abbie Cornett has introduced three bills in the state legislature to help pay for the ballpark. LB 615 creates a county sales tax for "entertainment districts" and allows the use of both the state and county sales tax to be used to help fund projects in and around the entertainment district. LB 616 allows counties to divert state cigarette tax receipts to projects, such as the ballpark, and LB 617 allows for taxing districts be developed for property and sales tax purposes for building projects. Those are the keys to whether this happens, or not.
Here's the gist of those proposals: they would allow Sarpy County to claim much of the state and local taxes generated at and around the ballpark, and use that money for the ballpark. Of course, in the case where those taxes were already being used by the state, that means a shortfall in revenues. Much of these proposals were proposed twice before, and were voted down for that very reason. And in this economy and in this budget situation, I still question how these proposals stand a chance. If they fail, then Sarpy has to find $1.5 million or so a year to pay for this ballpark.
At this time, there does not appear to be a plan B in the works, or at least proposed at this time. In terms of the preliminary agreement, there doesn't need to be one. Sarpy can walk away from the deal at any time up to June 1st. What this essentially means is that Sarpy County can approve this agreement next week, and change it's mind if the Legislature doesn't pass these bills. The county board has no risk to vote "yes" next week, as they aren't committed to the deal until June. The Royals, however, are committed, and thus, won't be able to consider counteroffers from MECA or other cities.
There were a couple of interesting items in the proposal. First of all, Sarpy County and the Royals intend to pursue the NAIA College World Series for the new ballpark. Which seems kind of silly, since that would require the Royals to vacate the new stadium for a week and a half, and they already complain about having to leave during the NCAA CWS. Granted, the NAIA series is shorter, but it would seem that the Pacific Coast League wouldn't particuarly enjoy having to schedule all those road trips around both college series. On the other hand, bringing new tourism to the area is always a good thing. That's one benefit for the entire metro area.
The bigger one is that old canard: parking. The agreement calls for paved parking around the stadium, one spot for every four seats, with the following stipulation:
That's right. The Royals apparently plan to charge for parking around the new ballpark. How much will they charge? Well, let's look at what other PCL teams charge: Iowa $6, Indianapolis $5, Colorado Springs $6. So guess what? All those complaints about MECA's $6 parking? Well, guess what. It would happen in Chalco anyway.
"all of which shall be revenue producing parking spaces for the ORoyals."
--- Section 9.3
So what happens next? The way the Sarpy/Royals agreement is structured, the county board vote is a mere formality. It'll get approved...but doesn't mean a darned thing. The real action is in the Legislature where the three Cornett bills begin deliberations. If those pass, the Chalco ballpark is 99.9% home, as much as I hate to say. If those fail (which I've maintained was the key sticking point all along), then this becomes a much more interesting issue. Sarpy County leaders will plead that this is the ONLY way the Royals stay in Nebraska, but the truth is, there is still another option. (I mean, there is still the question of whether 6,000 seats is enough, and whether $20 million is enough, but that's an issue for another day...)
It's getting dimmer. But it's still there, waiting for the leaders across the area and the state to do the right thing.