KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City landmark soon may be only a piece of history. The American Royal is moving forward with plans to tear down Kemper Arena and said a deal with the city could be reached within a month.
But, not everyone thinks the arena should be destroyed.
The American Royal said for the past three years Kemper Arena has been dark. It said the arena has only held three events a year at the arena for the past three years.
“Kemper had a great 40 year run — a lot of wonderfully, nationally prominent events were held in Kemper, but unfortunately it’s time has come and gone and with the advent of the new Sprint Center all of the big events are down there — and now Kemper is pretty quiet and largely unused,” said American Royal President and CEO Bob Petersen.
Petersen said an agriculture-centered arena can still thrive in the west bottoms, but said Kemper is too big, too costly to maintain and in need of serious infrastructure work.
“We can bring Kemper down and replace it with a new facility that is better-sized for the types of events that we do and is not such a huge behemoth that costs so much to heat and cool,” Petersen said.
But, not everyone thinks the iconic Kansas City building should be torn down.
Erik Heitman, chairman of the Kansas City Historic Preservation Commission, said there has to be a better option.
“When I hear they want to tear down Kemper Arena of course I’m distressed because I think it’s a great community asset… it is also architecturally important in the history of modern architecture,” he said.
Heitman, an architect, said it makes better economic sense to give the landmark some much needed ‘TLC’ rather than bring it down.
“You know there’s also the opportunity to downsize the building and use the space left over to create community space so I think there’s a lot of opportunity to repurpose the space,” he told FOX 4.
Petersen said after meeting with Kansas City, Mo., city officials for the past year, a deal is close.
“We would hope within the next 30 days we would be able to make an announcement that we have come to an agreement in principal on the city’s role in funding this,” he said.
Petersen estimates it would cost $10 million to tear down Kemper and upgrade the American Royal building and would cost another $50 million to rebuild.
He says the Kemper family said they are open to renaming the arena and will consider corporate sponsorship.
American Royal’s lease on Kemper Arena with the city doesn’t expire until 2045. Funding for anything there will involve some tax money along with grants, he said.