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Plans to demolish Kemper may be canceled if it’s designated as historical

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some people around the metro were growing concerned Monday that Kemper Arena may be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation is considering nominating Kemper, despite a $70 million plan to tear down the arena and build a smaller center for livestock and horse shows.

The historic preservation council is meeting next month in Jefferson City. The council consists of 12 historians, architects and archaeologists who have an interest in preserving history.

If Kemper were to be listed on the national register, it could not be demolished to make way for a 5,000 seat equestrian center that American Royal boosters want to build.

American Royal President Bob Petersen says he's surprised the arena is under consideration for historic designation. He says Kemper sits dark for much of the year, with only a handful of events scheduled.

The arena needs more than $20-million in deferred maintenance, and instead of pouring more money into an empty venue, the Royal has a plan to replace it with an agriculture and events center that can be an economic engine for Kansas City.

"As a practical matter today it's an old facility," Petersen said. "It's in need of a lot of money to repair. It would be far more economically feasible to replace it with something that would bring new economic activity to Kansas City on a year round basis, which is what we are proposing."

Petersen claims it makes financial sense to get rid of Kemper.  The arena loses about $1-million a year. The city still has about 30 years left on its 50-year lease with the Royal, meaning that taxpayers would have to maintain the facility to support American Royal events. And the city still owes more than $1-million on the 1997 Kemper Arena expansion.

Private donors currently are raising about $10 million for the proposed equestrian and agricultural center.

Supporters of preserving Kemper say they face an uphill battle to prevent the arena from being demolished.

"The age of the building is a concern," said Elizabeth Rosin, a historic preservation expert. "But the architecture is distinctive and Kemper Arena has a unique history."

Rosin's firm, Rosin Preservation LLC, has been hired by Kansas City-based Foutch Brothers to seek the historic designation for the arena. Foutch Brothers specializes in saving historic buildings and turning them into apartments, offices or other community spaces.

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14 comments

  • Jean

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! don’t they realize Elvis was there twice? That is sacred ground……..
    Maybe more than that, but I saw him there in about 1975 and 1977.
    Amazes me when I travel overseas and buildings are thousands of years old and not here, we just tear them down.

  • Stephanie

    My husband and I met at Kemper on September 16, 2006 at the Nickelback, Chevelle, Hinder & Hoobastank concert. We married on September 16, 2008. It is very historic to us and certainly to our son who wouldn’t be here without it!

  • David Vincent

    Kemper Arena is an important building in the history of modern architecture and recieved a national Honor Award (the highest award) from the American Institute of Architects in 1976. As a City-owned building, Kemper Arena is also a great community asset. Rather than sending another historic building to the landfill we need to rethink how we use Kemper Arena. It would be foolish for the City to spend $60 million in taxpayer money (the American Royal is only contributing $10M) to build a 5,000 seat arena on the grounds of a demolished modern landmark (which also happens to be an arena).

  • Mike

    The Sprint Center was FORCED on the city by former mayor Kay Barnes as she just HAD to have something to show for her time in office. Kemper should be kept and refurbished rather than razing and building a 5000 seat arena that will only be used for equestrian events. Kemper can be used for a variety of events.

  • M. Gregory

    What a stupid idea to put the Sprint Center where it is. KC people are so stupid. So much more parking around the Kemper arena . Will not go to Sprint Center for anything. They’re not going to get my $20-$40 to park in a garage or a mile away.

  • TaterSalad

    This all sounds too familar like the current griping with not getting rid of KCI airport to make way for something called progress. Why do y’all hold onto something that is useless and outdated? Sprint Center ain’t goin away. KCI stinks. Kemper holds (maybe) an event or two a year. Last event I remember going to Kemper was for an auto show 7 years ago. I have been to Sprint Center 7 times in the past 7 years. Kemper needs to go just like Bannister Mall and KCI needs modernization.

  • Think about the future people

    The Foutch Brothers should be forced to buy it if they’re so intent on saving it. The city might even be willing to sell it cheap given all of the deferred maintenance and upkeep costs that they’d no longer be responsible for.

  • Steven W Lindsey

    Why might it be considered historic? What type of architectural style is it? What year was it built? More details mr reporter are needed for us, the reader to fully understand. The article tiilts towards the need to demolish. This may be so, but we need more facts. Please.