K.C. mulls plan to redo Kemper Arena with private money, plus free land and tax breaks and (mumble mumble)

Ever since Kansas City opened the Sprint Center in 2007, it didn’t need a second arena with no sports team that was failing to pay back its construction costs. But now the city seems to have found a potential reuse for Kemper Arena, former home of the Kansas City Kings and Kansas City Scouts:

The repurposing plan Kansas City officials have chosen to pursue would span the original arena floor with a second level, adding enough new floor space for seven high school-sized athletic courts. Those would be in addition to four courts that could be positioned on the existing arena floor…

If all the needed financing details fall into place, developer Steve Foutch said, the facility could be redeveloped by the end of 2017 at an estimated cost of $25 million to $30 million.

Hey, first-class youth sports facility paid for by a private developer, and getting the city out from paying $1 million in maintenance on the place? What’s not to like? Building a second arena floor in mid-air is a bit weird and bound to present engineering challenges, but at least the taxpayer cost is limited—

None of this is a done deal unless state and federal authorities agree that Kemper Arena is worthy of placement on the National Register of Historic Places. That step is necessary to apply for historic tax credits that could cover more than one-third of the redevelopment costs.

Okay, so federal taxpayers would have to put up about $10 million to preserve a 42-year-old arena that’s “historic” mostly because its roof caved in once, but that’s still not so bad—

Foutch said Monday that he is in the middle of negotiations with the city but expects to acquire the property for a “nominal” amount, given that reusing Kemper would save the city the cost of demolition.

Give the developers the arena for nothing? And presumably let them keep all the proceeds from running it? That’s a bit more dubious, but at least then the city would collect property—

Another part of the needed financing plan involves Foutch getting approval for property tax abatement. Foutch said he will seek 100 percent abatement for 10 years through the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

You are trying to make me hate this deal, Kansas City! Knock it off! Sigh.

7 comments on “K.C. mulls plan to redo Kemper Arena with private money, plus free land and tax breaks and (mumble mumble)

  1. Great place to watch a basketball game, whether you were in the first row or the last. That alone is a “historic” perspective long since disappeared among arena architects.

    It also hosted the “Danny and the Miracles” NCAA basketball final in 1988.

    • Well, the last row will be gone, or at least hidden by the second floor. So it’d mostly be a matter of preserving the exterior, which, meh.

  2. The old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto was renovated to create 2 new facilities for Ryerson University on the (new) 2nd and 3rd floors plus a Loblaws grocery store on the ground floor. The 2nd floor is a basketball court for the university basketball teams (not big – I believe it seats about 1,000). The 3rd floor is a hockey rink for the university hockey team, but it has also been used for basketball when larger events are held e.g. the Pan-Am games. This level seats a bit more (2,300) but still small by most standards.

  3. Not from KC (but appreciate the BBQ) …How does a building that looks like it was designed and built in the 90s get on the National Register of Historic Places?

    In absence of other development options, If I had a choice btw granting property tax exemptions to a facility with multiple courts for the “public” or a stadium dedicated to one team, I’d pick this. Here in SJ, we have a couple of facilities–an ice hockey and a roller hockey/indoor soccer center that are busy all of the time. A facility like this for hoops and, one for soccer would be ideal.

    • It is a part of the registry, due to it’s design. Granted….it was proven that the roof could not hold up under extreme weather, but still it was unique.

      No different than the late, lamented Silverdome. The difference being, Kemper is still around….the Silverdome is now in the history books (although one of the places it inspired, that being the Carrier Dome is still in business).

  4. They are thinking about nearly the exact same thing here in Edmonton now that the Oilers are done with Nortlands Coliseum.


  5. If they turned it into a museum dedicated to the memories we all still cherish from the 1974-75 Kansas City Scouts (I still have the hockey cards… ), surely it’s permanent inclusion on the NRHP would be guaranteed?