$39 million Kemper Arena renovation hopes to breathe new life to Stockyards District

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For decades, Kemper Arena was to be the "it" place for things like concerts, sporting events, you name it.

Then it fell into disrepair, and was almost demolished.

The arena's $39 million renovation is expected to bring new life to the historic Stockyards District of Kansas City.

“We think it will be transformative for all of Kansas City, but especially the historic West Bottoms,” said Councilman Scott Taylor.

Councilman Taylor and the developer, Steve Foutch, took FOX4 on a tour Tuesday of the old Kemper Arena as the project is ahead of schedule and on budget and set to open this fall.

“We're about halfway through everything now,” Foutch added.

You may not even recognize the arena once you step inside.

The $39 million renovation is transforming a single level 18,000-seat arena into a multi-level, multi-functional, 10,000-seat sports complex.

“We had the old Kemper Arena just sitting here, not being used, costing tax payers a million dollars plus a year just sitting here to maintain it, to keep the power on,” Councilman Taylor said.

Today crews were pouring concrete on the building's new second floor.

“We're going to have families coming in now all weekend long, all during the week there will be sports and youth leagues,” added Taylor.

Sports agility, golf simulators, hydrotherapy, retail and dining options are expected to surround the two floors of hardwood courts.

“It's an open shopping mall basically,” says Foutch, “There might be people coming in during the day just to come up and get something to eat at noon, but then they see pick-up basketball games, so they might play that, or they might go get their nails done, or go get a massage.”

Once renovations are complete, the arena will be open 365 days a year, from 6 a.m. to midnight.

“It's exciting to see something getting done, there was even talk of some people in the community wanting to tear this down and I think the other benefit, the win-win for the community was this was a historic preservation project, funds from the state were a big part in keeping this structure, and turning it into a more vibrant use for the community,” Taylor says.

The first major event to be held at the new space is already scheduled for Sep. 20. It's an international Pickleball tournament.

Foutch said almost every weekend for the first year is already booked.