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American Royal Withdraws Kemper Arena Replacement Proposal

The fate of Kansas City's Kemper Arena is perhaps in more doubt than ever after the American Royal Association board of directors withdrew its proposal that the arena be torn down and replaced with a smaller one.

Kansas City, Mo., city council committee chair Ed Ford received a letter from the Royal's attorneys Monday indicating that the association was scrapping its proposal and had no desire to engage in future discussions with the city.  The reason cited was "negative dialogue ... detrimental to the American Royal and its core mission."

The American Royal's proposal included a request for $30 million in city help up front and a $1 million a year subsidy.  A competing proposal from Foutch Brothers, a developer, proposed repurposing the old arena as a youth sports facility.

Some considered the Royal's withdrawal even more surprising because the livestock and horse show had aggressively forced Foutch Brothers to withdraw their plan just a few weeks ago, threatening to sue the developer over interference with the Royal's long-term lease on the facility it was seeking to tear down.

Council committee chair Ed Ford lamented, "I tried very much to get a win-win out of this. Unfortunately, I now feel that we have a lose-lose."

Ford said the large arena is costing the city $1.6 million a year, and with it and the adjacent American Royal facilities in increasing need of deferred maintenance, he would recommend mothballing Kemper Arena and using the savings to repair the smaller Hale Arena building.

Ford said the next step would be to declare the arena surplus property and send out requests for proposals regarding its future.

The Plans, Zoning and Economic Development committee is likely to discuss Ford's suggestions on Dec. 3.

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