A six-lane, 350-meter indoor track — pictured here in an artist's rendering — is among the list of improvements planned for Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo. (Image courtesy of Foutch Brothers LLC)
The 43-year-old Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., will gain new life as a youth sports complex, thanks to a deal brokered between the city and a private developer.
In February, the City Council of Kansas City voted to authorize the sale of Kemper Arena to Foutch Brothers LLC. The price: $1. The arrangement will save taxpayer dollars and open the door for future economic development, said Chris Hernandez, communications director for the city.
“This is a good deal for us because we're currently spending about $1 million a year just on maintenance for a facility that is rarely used,” he said. He later added that demolishing the building would have cost about $10 million.
The new owner's budget to renovate the building is set at $30 million. The developer will meet that cost with a combination of tax credits, private investor contributions and funds from its own coffers, said Julie Rischer, general manager at Foutch Brothers.
The city won't be contributing any money to the project, making Foutch Brothers responsible for securing the funds. However, the private developer will receive a 100-percent property tax abatement for 10 years and a 50-percent abatement for several years afterward, Hernandez said. With the city council's approval in hand, Foutch Brothers can finish seeking historic tax credits from the state to help support the project, he added.
Foutch Brothers has ambitious plans for the arena, which opened in 1974. For starters, they plan to install a second floor at the natural break between the existing upper and lower seating bowls. This modification will add another 52,000 square feet to the venue. When completed, the venue will be able to seat 8,000-10,000, Rischer said. Both floors will feature a hardwood maple court. Together, they can host as many as 12 collegiate-size basketball courts and 18 tournament-size volleyball courts, she said.
“In addition to those two stories, we're also going to have a running track at the top of the seating section,” she said, adding that an existing platform will be expanded to accommodate the six-lane, 350-meter indoor track.When renovations are completed, the facility will host a diverse range of sports, including volleyball, football, basketball, archery, wrestling, cheerleading, dance and gymnastics, Rischer said. The venue will get a new name to go along with the facelift. Mosaic Life Care purchased the naming rights to the facility, and the health care provider will offer telehealth services from one of the venue's retail spaces, she said.
The rechristened Mosaic Arena is expected to draw regional and out-of-state youth tournaments. This will make it an economic driver in the West Bottoms neighborhood of Kansas City, which is already “undergoing its own kind of renaissance,” Hernandez said.
This potential for economic growth was another reason the sale was appealing to the city. As families come to the arena for youth tournaments, they'll be tempted to explore the other amenities within walking distance, Hernandez said. “We really see a symbiotic effect here,” he added.
On its own accord, Mosaic Arena will have an array of amenities to keep parents and families occupied during long tournaments. It will include retail spaces, a bar and dining facilities. Developers also plan to include a “fun zone” for younger children and interactive kiosks equipped with educational modules and wayfinding information, Rischer said.
“We could almost call it a sports mall because it's more of a destination versus a training facility or tournament facility,” Rischer said. The renovated venue will also feature amenities for both work as well as play. It will include co-working spaces, which are rentable by the day, and business spaces available for long-term lease, she added.
Construction is scheduled to start in May, and the renovated arena is slated to be open by May or June of 2018, Rischer said.
City officials have high hopes for the venue and its contributions to the local economy. “It's going to bring a lot of new life to that neighborhood,” Hernandez said, adding, “It's really an excellent deal, and it's the kind of thing we've been looking for.”