Sunday, June 4, 2023

Royals’ Sherman optimistic about new ballpark, current team

Kansas City, Mo. (AP) – The first thing Kansas City Royals owner John Sherman thinks about when he wakes up every morning is how the club, in what seems like an endless rebuild, will play on that particular day.

Not where he will play for four or five years.

Yet given the modest expectations for a team that lost nearly 100 games a year ago, it’s understandable that many Royals fans are just as interested – possibly even more so – in the plans for the downtown ballpark as whether infielder Bobby Witt Junior can double. After his great rookie season or pitcher Brady Singer could really become a staff ace.

So Sherman’s second thought might be going to the downtown ballpark as well.

“It’s a big decision, and I view it as the most important decision we’ll ever have the privilege of running this team,” Sherman said as the Royals took their final workout on Wednesday before Opening Day. “I’m probably as anxious as you are to move forward on that, but it’s a complicated process.”

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The Royals have called Kauffman Stadium home since its sister Arrowhead Stadium of the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs opened 50 years ago next month.

And while most stadiums have been replaced as they get older, Kauffman Stadium’s unique, space-aged look—was built during an era in which teams tended toward impersonal, multisport concrete donuts for their homes – is beloved by Royals fans and visitors alike.

The problem is that, despite numerous repairs over the years, the very concrete holding the ballpark together has begun to crumble in places. The cost of repair and maintenance of the ballpark has become prohibitive.

So with the decision essentially made to build an entirely new stadium for them, the Royals revealed plans to build The Battery, an entire development in the same mold of Atlanta, where the Braves built Truist Park and St. Louis. In 1966, Ballpark Village was built, where the new Busch Stadium is the centerpiece of the entire entertainment district.

None of the sites have been secured, but the most promising are in downtown Kansas City, where the Power and Light District, along with the T-Mobile Center, has led a successful era of urban renewal.

Sherman has said that private funds will cover most of the cost of the stadium and the entire village, each costing about $1 billion.

But if any public money will be used, as it was to build and maintain Kauffman Stadium, it will need to be voted on, and the earliest it could appear on a ballot would be August.

“You look at Atlanta, they took some raw land — they started with 85 acres — and it’s been an absolute home run,” said Sherman, who bought the Royals in August 2019 after the pandemic took a toll on the team’s finances. Wreaked havoc.

“That’s one of the reasons we want to do this: It helped the Braves become more competitive,” Sherman said of the huge potential for revenue growth for one of the smallest market teams in baseball. “He’s locked in and grown the core of his future, and from a baseball perspective the Braves are in a great position.”

So perhaps the first two thoughts Sherman has every day — about performance and the future — are one and the same.

When it comes to the team, the Royals have been largely quiet throughout the winter, though that was by design.

Rather than spend heavily on free agents who could help them win a few more games, they decided to stay the course with a promising young roster in the hopes that developing those players would lead to better results.

In fact, Sherman said, the club is discussing extensions to some of the Royals’ foundational pieces — possibly Witt, who finished fourth in voting for AL Rookie of the Year, and Singer, who last season with 10 innings with a 3.23 ERA. -5 was .

“We’re talking about it,” Sherman said. “We have a number of young players we are trying to evaluate and we are talking to their representatives to see what might work.”

Just because the Royals’ roster has largely stayed the same doesn’t mean nothing has changed. The Royals fired longtime general manager Dayton Moore in September and moved JJ Piccolo to the role, then fired manager Mike Matheny in October and replaced him with longtime Indians and Rays coach Matt Quatraro.

Sherman said the new voices created an apparent energy in spring training that he hopes will carry into the regular season.

“When we acquired the team, we had three primary objectives,” Sherman said. “One was to win more games; we were working on that. The second was to secure the future; this is what (the stadium) is. And the third was to do good in the community.

“But the first priority,” he said, “is really the on-field product. That’s what really elevates everything else.”

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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