A special committee of the Kansas City Council held its first hearing Thursday on the American Royal proposal to replace Kemper Arena. The idea of demolishing the old arena and building a smaller one met some determined opposition.
Representatives of the American Royal and Sporting Kansas City said their plan is a boost for a venerable institution, youth sports and the West Bottoms.
The city would have to underwrite construction costs of $30 million and pay the American Royal a subsidy of over $1 million a year. They estimated building the smaller 7,000-seat arena would cost $100 million over a 30-year period.
Dan Cofran of the Historic Kansas City Foundation portrayed the plan as an arrogant, bullying attempt to get taxpayers to rescue a dying institution with declining revenues.
"Is it the city's obligation to bail out an organization that is no longer a concern?" he asked. "If that's not a taxpayer bail-out, I don't know what is.”
Cofran said Historic Kansas City will continue to work to get Kemper Arena on the National Register of Historic Places, and is prepared to start an initiative petition drive to force any new local plans for Kemper to a public vote.
Another committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for the first week of December.