For the past four years, Kemper Arena has sat nearly empty — silent and mostly forgotten as high-profile concerts and other marquee events migrated to the Sprint Center in Downtown, according to a report in Sunday’s Kansas City Star.
“But a battle is intensifying between two camps over Kemper Arena’s future, and each side is asking the city for a quick decision,” wrote reporter Lynn Horsley.
According to The Star:
“On one side: the American Royal, which continues to push a plan unveiled in October 2011 to tear down Kemper and replace it with a smaller agricultural and multipurpose center.
“On the other: Foutch Brothers, a Kansas City development firm that recently has gone public to advocate saving Kemper. The company, which has transformed large historic buildings from Des Moines, Iowa, to Wichita, proposes acquiring Kemper from the city and converting it to a regional youth sports mecca.
“Right now, Mayor Sly James is firmly in the American Royal’s camp, which means Kemper Arena’s demolition is increasingly likely. James says he’s not convinced the Foutch Brothers’ approach works financially, although he concedes the American Royal financing needs more work as well.
“James says the American Royal has the upper hand because of a 50-year lease that doesn’t expire until 2045 and gives the organization veto power over what happens with the Kemper property. The American Royal doesn’t support the Foutch Brothers’ alternate approach, so that makes it difficult for the city to accommodate it.
‘“We have a lease with the American Royal that we need to honor, and that lease is controlling,”’ James said in an interview.
“If there were a viable community use for Kemper Arena, James said, it would be serving that function now, more than six years after the Sprint Center opened. Instead, it hosts about two dozen events annually, mostly graduations and small functions that leave it with a $500,000 annual deficit.”
Click here to read the complete story about the future of the Kemper Arena.