With American Royal Rodeo moving to downtown’s Sprint Center, the future of Kemper Arena suddenly becomes very much in doubt after losing its biggest event.
When Sprint Center opened, the argument by city officials was that the market was big enough for two arenas, especially with American Royal anchoring the Kemper Arena schedule. It’s a huge event, one big enough to warrant keeping Kemper Arena around, with its schedule augmented by smaller events and concerts (23 this year). There’s not a market that successfully supports two major arenas.
But with the anchor gone, Kemper Arena still stands because profits from Sprint Center (yes, Elizabeth, an arena with no sports teams turns a tidy profit) subsidize operations, to the tune of roughly $750,000 annually. There’s also the issue of $10 million in debt currently owed on the arena.
Right now there’s a debate on the future of Kemper Arena. On the one hand, it’s a useful asset for the city to own, despite the debt, and despite the diminishing event lineup, city officials seem happy with the AEG management. On the other hand, the site or even the building could be used for a different, more apt purpose, like a conversion to an amphitheater. The debate is probably just beginning, but already folks are thinking outside the box; the Kansas City Star has a nice roundup of the various options.
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