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.