The future of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena is murky. The city council is considering two proposals. One, from the American Royal, would see it torn down and replaced. The other, from the development company Foutch Brothers, would rehab it as the centerpiece of a youth sports complex. But last week, urban activist Jase Wilson wrote an open letter to the council last week with a novel proposal: Turn the arena into the Midwest’s only arena specifically designed to host competitive video game tournaments.
Wilson thinks eSports, as gamers call competitive video game playing, could mean big business for Kansas City. Tournaments on the coasts draw thousands of gamers and spectators.
“Kemper, as it is, with some TLC and a little repurposing, is perfectly suited for eSports tournaments. Just Google eSports tournaments and look at the images," he says. "You’ll see images of other arenas that look just like Kemper, with tens of thousands of people in them doing really fun looking things.”
He also says that eSports could be a major tourism attraction.
“They bring millenials that have disposable income. They stay for days. Big tournaments happen very frequently. You’re talking about Kansas City as a digital gaming epicenter," Wilson adds.
Wilson estimates that it would cost a few million dollars to add gaming infrastructure to Kemper, and that the building could still host the American Royal and other events. Plus, he thinks gamers will love the arena's iconic architecture.
"It looks like it's from the future, even though it's from the past," he says. "That's an interesting concept to gamers."
The city council hopes to finalize its plans for Kemper by the end of September.