So Long, Kemper: Huge New Kansas City Sports Complex Will Be Hy-Vee Arena | KCUR

So Long, Kemper: Huge New Kansas City Sports Complex Will Be Hy-Vee Arena

May 17, 2018

It’s naming time – again – for the former Kemper Arena, and this time Hy-Vee is stamping its brand on the $39 million redevelopment project.

The Iowa-based supermarket chain, which operates 20 stores in metro Kansas City, is replacing Mosaic Life Care, which had to drop its naming rights agreement for the arena last December after being bought by Saint Luke’s Health System.

“Hy-Vee Arena is a perfect way for us to celebrate our 30 years of service in the metro, and it will be a fitting extension of our brand in the heart of Kansas City,” says Drew Holmes, Hy-Vee senior regional vice president.

As part of the deal, the Hy-Vee name will be displayed inside and outside the building and featured on video boards throughout the arena.

Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed, but developer Steve Foutch of Foutch Architects and Development says the Hy-Vee deal is “a little bit better” than the previous arrangement with Mosaic.

“Hy-Vee embodies the criteria we set out in finding a naming rights partner and their reputation for excellence ... is the ideal fit for our venue,” Foutch says.

Progress on redeveloping the West Bottoms arena into a major amateur sports complex is 70 percent complete. Workers’ next big task is laying the two acres of hardwood flooring required for 12 basketball courts.

What was formerly the arena’s 19,500-seat interior has been divided in half. The new upper level is big enough for eight high-school-caliber basketball courts surrounded by seating for 5,000 spectators.

Kemper Arena redeveloper Steve Foutch on the new second level inside what will be called the Hy-Vee Arena.
Credit Kevin Collison / KCUR 89.3

The lower level can accommodate four NBA- and college-caliber basketball courts and seating for 3,500 people. The top level also includes a 350-meter, five-lane indoor track, which Foutch says is the longest in the U.S. outside of Alaska.

Other amenities include a food court with a beer garden; office space for an expected 40 small businesses and 400 daily office users; a fitness club run by a couple of Chiefs players and a golf simulator.

Foutch says the building is about 70 percent leased. Tenants so far include Cherry Sportsgear, Battle Gear, Trilogy Sports and Fitness, UClick TV, Biggie’s Arcade & Games, Blue Moose, Opera House Coffee and The Smoothie Shop.

Foutch says he expects a half million people will visit Hy-Vee Arena each year, helping to drive additional redevelopment in the Stockyards District of the West Bottoms.

The redevelopment of the 45-year-old arena, which has been mostly vacant since the Sprint Center opened in 2007, is an unusual accomplishment.

In most American cities, obsolete arenas often have been demolished after their new, flashier replacements opened. Before Foutch bought it for $1 in early 2017, the old Kemper was costing the city $1 million to maintain.

Foutch says he hopes to be able to duplicate the successful redevelopment of the Hy-Vee Arena in other cities that have similar surplus facilities.

“This is one more building we’ve saved now in our career,” the developer says. “It was by far the biggest and most notorious project. We’re looking forward to taking it on the road either to help other cities do this or do it ourselves.”

A “shakedown” opening of the new Hy-Vee Arena is scheduled for September 11. That’s when members of KC Crew, a big adult athletic league in metro Kansas City, will be invited to play basketball, volleyball and use other facilities.

The first major event will be the Third Shot’s a Charm Pickleball Festival on September 21. Foutch expects 500 participants to play on 24 pickleball courts. A grand opening weekend for the public is scheduled for October 5-7.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.