Kemper family calls for demolition of Kemper Arena - KCTV5

Kemper family calls for demolition of Kemper Arena

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The American Royal and the Kemper family want Kemper Arena destroyed and a 5,000-seat coliseum will be built for dirt events, officials announced Tuesday.

The final decision is up to Kansas City, which owns the facility.

The new coliseum would have room for barbecue events. Officials said it would be a state-of-the-art center for agricultural events.

The cost, however, would be $70 million with construction alone totaling about $50 million. R. Crosby Kemper Jr., and his son Mariner, pledged to raise millions for construction, but tax dollars would also be needed.

Mariner Kemper said the new facility would be a world class one that would compete with other cities for top-of-the-line events.

"Change is the only permanent thing," said Crosby Kemper. "I'm all in favor of it."

The Kemper family provided the financial support for the arena to be built in the early 1970s.

"This is a really good idea with some critical backers," Danny Rotert, a spokesman for Mayor Sly James, told KCTV5. "The city has been talking about the next steps for some time and this adds to the discussion."

However, Rotert emphasized that while city leaders welcome the talks that no final decision has been made.

"I certainly think it is a matter of funding. The city has a lot of priorities and this requires city contributions to make this work," he said.

That the Kemper family is making a financial commitment and will help with fund raising, Rotert said, is important.

The nearly 20,000-seat Kemper Arena hosted the 1976 Republican National Convention and the 1988 Final Four.

But the arena became obsolete after Sprint Center opened in 2007. The city decided to let AEG-Kansas City oversee both Kemper and Sprint Center, which supporters said would be best for both buildings. But critics said AEG would have little incentive to ensure Kemper's future success.

The city spent considerable funds on a parking garage at Kemper in recent years but to no avail. The city is still about $10 million in debt on bonds at Kemper but revenues fall woefully short of covering operating costs.The operating losses average $1 million annually.

The bonds are not scheduled to be paid off for another five years.

Most expected Kemper would be demolished after long-term tenant, the American Royal, announced the rodeo would move to the Sprint Center.

City Manager Troy Schulte said tax incentives, state tax dollars and other funding sources could help cover the costs.

"There may be ways where it doesn't have to all come from the city's general fund to do this," Schulte said.

The city manager said a decision on Kemper's future is months away.

Demolishing Kemper could cost at least $5 million.

In a statement, James thanked the Kemper family, American Royal and AEG for working together "to propose a productive and successful solution to replace Kemper."

He said their efforts and commitment are key to the future of the West Bottoms.

"While no decision has been made about this city asset, I am excited about the proposal released today and look forward to continuing the discussion," James said.

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