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Despite lack of sports teams, new Kansas City arena is financial success

It’s been a year since Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City opened without an anchor sports tenant, but officials there say the place has been an unqualified financial success.
The notion that an anchor sports team is essential to the financial success of a new arena is being shot down by downtown Kansas City’s Sprint Center, which has hosted 140 events and drawn more than 1.3 million.

"Quite frankly, without an anchor tenant, we’ve blown all our numbers away even if we had an anchor tenant,” said Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), told the Kansas City Star. "Clearly, within the entertainment, sports and live-music industry, it is as hot a building as there is in the country. No one could fault what we did with the building. We built it on time, on budget, and put on more events than anyone thought humanly possible without an anchor tenant."

True, there have been some high-profile sporting events at the arena — like the Big 12 basketball tournament — and some smaller sports events, like home games for the Kansas City Brigade (AFL). And AEG, which manages the facility and invested $54 million in it, has two more years of exclusivity to land an NBA or NHL team. So while efforts on that front are underway (complicated by the poor economy and the lack of passion for expansion in the NBA and NHL ranks), chances are good that three-year window will elapse before AEG can land a team.