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Kansas City to request more proposals for Kemper Arena's future

Posted at 5:33 PM, Nov 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-13 19:51:02-05

Kansas City leaders decided to ask for more ideas on what to do with Kemper Arena.

At a committee meeting Thursday, city council members didn't make any decisions on the future of the space in the West Bottoms.

The American Royal Association's proposal is the only one on the table right now. It would demolish Kemper Arena and build a new facility.

"The American Royal wants to create a mixed use agriculture facility that can be used for, not only American Royal events, but also for trade shows, conferences and most importantly, youth sports activity," Gordon Maxwell, an attorney who represented the American Royal at Thursday's meeting, said.

Sporting Kansas City would partner with the American Royal to develop youth sports programs and find uses for the new space year-round.

"It takes seeing is believing out there, and no place have we seen better than Sporting KC," Maxwell said. "Sporting KC used to attract 3, 4, 5,000 people to their facility. When they got their new stadium, it sold out. Sold out game after game after game. Facilities do matter."

The proposal calls for $30 million from the city to tear down, rebuild and maintain the new facility.

That is the main point of contention for opponents.

"It would be nice to do this, but the city doesn't have the money," Dan Cofran said.

Cofran spoke against tearing down Kemper Arena at the committee hearing, saying the building is taxpayer-funded, so taking it down is throwing away taxpayer dollars.

"We have a very strong history in Kansas City of re-purposing older structures so that $125 million taxpayer investment would not be lost," he said. "It would be re-purposed, enhanced to do something else to still serve the community."

Cofran also discussed the historic value of Kemper Arena. There is a GoFundMe campaign to put Kemper on the National Register of Historic Places.

Duron Netsell doesn't have an attachment to the arena itself, but agrees with Cofran that Kansas City shouldn't spend millions of dollars on a new facility.

"911 dispatchers are very limited, our school system is essentially failing, it's rebuilding but they can use a lot of money, our sewers are failing, infrastructure is weak," said Netsell. "There are so many things in the city that this money could be spent on that are essential to the community, not just one organization."

The city's Finance Department said if Kemper were to stay as it is, the city would lose $188 million over 30 years, the length of the current lease.

Maxwell said the American Royal's proposal would save the city $100 million in the same amount of time.

Both sides agree that something needs to be done.

"The status of Kemper is atrocious, no one is using it anymore. It's holding back the American Royal," said Maxwell. "With a new facility we can do much better."

But opponents want to see other options.

"Let's go out nationally with requests for proposals and see what ideas are out there," Cofran said.

The city will revisit this issue again in December.