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Tear Down Kemper Arena, American Royal Insists

The American Royal is sticking to its guns, insisting that Kemper Arena be torn down to make way for a new, smaller arena.

A council committee was looking favorably at a Foutch Brothers Developers' plan for a youth sports facility would save Kemper Arena. But the American Royal's plan now includes a youth sports aspect backed by Sporting Kansas City. And given that, plus disruption to the parking area and the annual barbecue contest, American Royal chairman Mariner Kemper says the old arena has to go.

At the council committee hearing, Kemper stopped just short of a threat when Ed Ford asked if he meant he would turn down $30 million in city incentives if the old arena had to remain in place.

“Well, I don't want to do that," Kemper said.

"I'd say we'd be faced with having to re-look at our options.”

He added that he is not eager to see an arena bearing his family name torn down, but said the decision not to renovate it was made years ago, and the old arena had become a cloud on the West Bottoms economy.

It is, he said, in the best interest of the American Royal and the community to rebuild, re-brand and "treasure the memories, not the building."

Foutch Brothers says tax abatement to cover a $22 million loan will be sufficient city help to launch their plan.

The American Royal's proposal at face value involves four times that much city participation, but most of it, they say, is re-capturable.

Kemper said their research also suggests that a $22 million investment would only keep the old arena viable for a few years.  The figure for a significant renovation, he said, is more like $60 million.

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