May 31, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Ill-Fated Kemper Arena Sold for a Buck

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Kansas City invested millions into the ill-conceived Kempe Arena over the years and sold it for a buck.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council, by a 9-1 vote, approved the sale of Kemper Arena to Foutch Brothers for $1. This move spares the city a $1 million-a-year maintenance burden but may put the city on the hook for future tax credits and other financing to help Foutch turn the arena into an amateur sports complex.

Opened in 1974 in the West Bottoms, Kemper won all sorts of architectural awards and hosted American Institute of Architects national conference in 1979. The event honored Kemper’s architect, Helmut Jahn. A day after the event, the roof collapsed.

In 1999, WWF superstar fell to his death from the arena’s rafters in front of a horrified crowd as he attempted to descend to the ring in his “Blue Blazer” super hero gear.

In the 1990s, despite Kemper’s unwelcoming location, the city poured more than $50 million into the arena and its adjacent American Royal livestock buildings only to see the complex fall into disuse with the opening of the Sprint Arena a decade later.

Not all city council members were thrilled to bid adieu to this very white elephant. Scott Wagner voted against the move for fear that the renovation would not provide adequate prevailing wage union jobs.

Foutch had been working on this deal for four years.

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