KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals’ Opening Day is another chance to remember that Kaufman Stadium’s days are likely numbered.
The team is actively looking for a site for a roughly $2 billion ballpark entertainment district somewhere around the downtown area. That process is already prompting labor organizations like Stand Up KC to start making sure low-wage workers can benefit too.
“Even when [the ballpark entertainment district] was announced, I knew that it would either be good for Kansas City or be bad,” said Terrence Wise. “No where in between.”
That’s why Wise says on top of his job in a fast-food restaurant, and his gig economy work, he’s working with Stand Up KC to get the Royals to commit to making sure the new ballpark district also benefits people like him. Wise says he rarely goes to games, works multiple jobs, has lived with his family out of his van in the past, and still struggles to make ends meet.
Stand Up KC is pushing for a community benefits agreement that would guarantee certain minimum wages, a path to unionization, a percentage of jobs going to people who live in zip codes with high unemployment, and other features.
Wise points out that architecture and finance experts are part of the process already but people with experience living paycheck to paycheck are often left out of the planning stages for big projects.
“Who is the expert at these low-wage jobs,” asked Wise. “Folks like me and folks around Kansas City who live it every day. We should have a seat at the table with all the other experts to develop what a strong CBA should look like so we can all benefit.”
Wise says he’s encouraged by how the early interactions have gone both during and after the team’s listening sessions about the ballpark project.
A Royals Spokesperson told FOX4 in and email that, “…we are committed to doing right by Kansas City, we expect to have a CBA and advisory board, but without key details like a site selection, we are not ready to discuss the specifics.”
“It’s good to hear the rhetoric from the Royals but we need to see it in action,” Wise said. “We need the proof to be on paper.”
Similar agreements were struck in Milwaukee, which Stand Up KC says is a model for what’s possible in Kansas City.
Stand Up KC says precedent that is set in Kansas City with the Royals’ project could be important when the Chiefs eventually need to either renovate or replace Arrowhead Stadium.
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“If [Royals owner] John Sherman and the Royals were saying, ‘We’ll cover the whole deal,’ then we wouldn’t have a say,” said Wise. “But they’re asking for a lot [of public funding] and w should be asking for a lot in return.”