R. Crosby Kemper Jr. and his family are saying what many in Kansas City have been arguing: tear down Kemper Arena and replace it with a facility more suited for the American Royal show.
It’s especially telling when Kemper makes the argument: he donated the land and money way back in 1974 to make Kemper Arena a reality. But the Kemper family, including son Mariner Kemper, who serves on the American Royal board, say it’s time for the large arena to go away and be replaced with a smaller, more modern facility suited for the American Royal show and other livestock/equestrian events.
It’s the latest in the ongoing debate in Kansas City over Kemper Arena’s place in the market now that Sprint Center is attracting virtually every major event in the city. It’s a truism in the arena industry that most cities cannot support two major arenas (New York City may prove to be the exception when Barclays Center comes online), and that’s certainly true in Kansas City, where Kemper Arena requires operating subsidies to stay afloat.
The proposal from the American Royal board would tear down Kemper Arena and replace it with a 5,000-seat exhibition hall suited for the show and other smaller events. The proposed cost is $70 million, including the cost of tearing down Kemper Arena. The Kempers promised to help raise $10 million toward the cost of a new facility.
We’re not sure how many tears will be shed for the potential loss of Kemper Arena. On the one hand, a couple of generations grew up with the arena, and people are always nostalgic about the silliest things. But Kemper Arena has not aged especially well, it’s not an architecturally significant building, and the proposed new exhibition hall (the design is from local firm Populous) is cool in a retro State Fair kinda way.
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