KCMO steps in to solidify Kemper Arena's future

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After years of two battling plans, the city manager has now been tasked to find the best plan for all of the West Bottoms.

"I just want something that is going to spur even more development because that is such a hot place," Kansas City Councilwoman Jan Marcason said.

The West Bottoms fall in her district and the area has continued to bloom despite a desolate Kemper Arena.

"It is a bit like Crossroads two," she said, commenting on the organic growth that has taken hold.

From the thousands who flock to the Warehouse Weekends looking for up-cycled goods to the new businesses and restaurants lining the streets, the West Bottoms is quickly becoming Kansas City's next 'it' neighborhood.

Amigoni Winery is celebrating two years just down the street from Kemper. Co-owner KerriĀ Amigoni wants to see Kemper Arena stay.

"Kemper just needs a new life," she said. "Change the name, do whatever, but you don't need to get rid of it."

She worked here in Kemper's hay day too. "It was fun, it was active, kind of a festival," she said. "We'd love that feeling to be back."

Only one of the two proposed plans includes keeping Kemper Arena. The Foutch brothers want to restore the arena and open it up as a multi-use facility including sports. Steve Foutch, CEO of the company, said a big new anchor tenant is nearly on board.

The people behind the American Royal want to tear Kemper down to make room for a new, smaller 5,000 seat arena. They admit it would largely be used for shows geared toward agriculture or livestock but also would accommodate so much more, including youth sports.

American Royal President Bob Petersen even admitted they are working on a possible future partnership with Sporting KC if their plan comes through.

The Kemper family has publicly sided with the American Royal, wanting the arena torn down.

Wednesday, the city Planning and Zoning Committee approved a motion to send city manager Troy Schulte to talk with other West Bottoms business owners to see what works best for everyone.

Marcason said Schulte is expected to present his findings in two weeks.

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