KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The fight over what to do with Kemper Arena is heating up again, with a competing group opposing the American Royal's hope to tear Kemper down.
Kemper Arena has forever been associated with the American Royal. But now they want to tear down the 40-year-old building and build a new complex more suitable to their needs as an agriculture organization. That plan has been in the works for two years now, but a local development company is jumping in saying it wants to save Kemper and turn it into what they are calling a big YMCA-type sporting facility.
“Basketball, volleyball, futsal, track, karate any kind of aerobics training and Pilates as well,” said Steve Foutch, who is Managing Director of a company called Foutch Brothers Developers. He wants to make Kemper Arena a regional hub for youth sports tournaments.
“Because you are going to have a thousand kids a night participating and training down here so there`s a good avenue for retail, food services and all the health clinics,” he said.
Foutch claims the space will easily accommodate a large number of youth sports players.
“By the number of courts and the number of teams that will be able to play there. About a thousand kids a night,” he said.
Foutch says he already has commitments from food vendors and retail, as well as club sports teams. His plan is to buy Kemper Arena from the city, although the price is still unknown, then put $22 million into renovating and operating it privately. He would then pay the city normal business taxes.
Foutch has not done any economic impact studies on how this will benefit the area and how much money it will bring in, but says he has provided the plan to the city for them to do a study.
Unfortunately for Foutch, the city is committed to provide Kemper to the American Royal for use until 2045. They want to tear the arena down and build a new facility instead.
“It does not work for equine events or livestock events and those types of things,” said Bob Peterson, of the American Royal. “You end up with a facility that has way too much capacity, and is too expensive to operate.”
Foutch Brothers believes the two can coexist by building the American Royal Center on the east side of the parking lot across from Kemper Arena.
“We have not really seen a concrete plan. What we have heard and seen from the Foutch Brothers is more of a set of drawings, or a set of ideas,” said Peterson. “All of the sudden we’ve consumed a large part of the parking facility that makes these events successful, we just don`t see how it works.”
In an email to FOX 4, the chairman of the American Royal reached out to say he believes tearing down Kemper Arena and rebuilding for the American Royal is the way to go. He said it would bring $60 million in annual revenue into the city and would make the American Royal complex the center of agriculture in America. He also believes that new facility would be a crowning achievement of Kansas City, much like the Sprint Center and Sporting Park.