KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Council voted on Thursday to spend $4.2 million on upkeep of the T-Mobile Center.
The downtown arena opened in 2007. Over the past 14 years, capital improvements have been covered by taxes placed on car and hotel rentals and user fees generated by operations at T-Mobile Center.
The plan worked well, until now. According to documents submitted to the city council, Kansas City has lost millions in revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenues are down 52% this year, and they are expected to drop again next year.
Because of that decline in revenue, city leaders will discuss appropriating $4 million over the next two years to pay for capital improvements at the arena. The company that manages the arena will also help foot the bill.
According to the arena management agreement, if Capital Reserve Funds won’t cover the costs of necessary repairs and maintenance, the city will pay 65% of the costs. The management company will pay the remaining 35%.
“The interior led package, scorer’s package – those are particularly important as we look to continue the relationship with the BIG 12 and NCAA championships in the future,” Jay Cooper, general manager of the T-Mobile Center, said.
“If we are unable to maintain a modern arena that is competitive, then the events don’t come here. And the arena loses money then the city loses profit-sharing. The other thing is that the Power & Light District has fewer events and activities so we get less sales tax,” Dave Frantze, and attorney for Stinson LLP which represents arena management – ASM Global – said.
The plan, if approved, is to use $1.3 million from the city’s General Fund this year. The city then plans to include a request for $2.8 million in next year’s budget for T-Mobile Center. City leaders hope that funding can be covered by federal stimulus money provided by the American Rescue Plan.
The money is being requested for Year 1 of the proposal from the general fund because that’s where the first tranche of the American Rescue Fund was deposited. Year 2 money will likely be directly requested from the second tranche of that money’s dispersal.
Documents provided to the city council said the project qualifies for that funding because it involves lost revenue.
Arena management said the upkeep is necessary to stay competitive hosting future events like the NCAA Basketball Tournament and Big 12 Media Days. Scorekeeping equipment and point-of-sale systems for concessions are currently not working or near ‘end of life’ – an issue that would cause major issues hosting those events.
4th District Councilman Eric Bunch expressed concern during the committee meeting leading up to the vote.
“It’s hard to see the general fund being used for this purpose vs. all the million other quality of life needs that our communities see,” Bunch said.
Bunch would ultimately vote in favor of paying for upkeep during the full council meeting.