Kemper Arena could be torn down, replaced with agricultural events center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The American Royal and Kemper family have come out with a proposal to tear down Kemper Arena and replace it with a new agricultural events center.

It would be a 5,000-seat coliseum dedicated to dirt events like rodeos and horse shows.

The arena is named after R. Crosby Kemper Sr. His son, R. Crosby Kemper Jr., said on Tuesday he was nostalgic about having the arena torn down but the Kemper family actually pushed for it.

"I'm behind it 100 percent. Will do all we can in our family to help and raise the money. As far as I'm concerned, I don't want it named Kemper Arena. I don't want anyone to continue to ask me for free tickets," said Kemper Jr.

The Kemper family will donate a large amount, but is willing to let another family or business donate enough for naming rights.

The total estimate for construction of the new center is $50 million and the cost of demolition of Kemper Arena is $5 million.

American Royal board members say they will try to raise about $10 million in private money towards the building.

RELATED | Businesses close to Kemper want it torn

Right now the proposal is just an idea, and it still needs to go through the entire city approval process while working out details of the funding, financing plus a new contract for the American Royal's lease with the city.

There's even talk of possibly switching from city ownership of the building to having the American Royal own it.

The city is still paying off bonds from the last remodeling project at Kemper Arena. The city owes $10 million dollars and is paying $2.2 million a year through 2016.

And KCMO is losing about $1 million dollars a year on operating costs at Kemper since most events now go to the new Sprint Center.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James released the following statement on the future of Kemper Arena:

"I appreciate the Kemper family, American Royal and AEG for working together to propose a productive and successful solution to replace Kemper Arena. These are critical backers to any future plans, and their efforts and commitments are key to the next steps for the American Royal facility. 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."

According to the Kemper Arena website , the City of Kansas City built the original American Royal Arena in 1922 for about $650,000. In 1991, ground was broken at the same site for the new building at an estimated $33.4 million. The new American Royal building was completed in 1992.

Kemper Arena opened in 1974.

The American Royal Association operates the American Royal Museum and is home to the American Royal Horse Show, Rodeo and Livestock Show. Each fall, the world's largest barbecue competition is held by the American Royal.

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