Hearne: Repatriate Kemper Arena

21c722_b02b041c5e6b4991b8a73316e65e83f9-1.jpg_srz_498_746_75_22_0.5_1.2_75_png_srzJunk sports, anyone?

How about we give Kemper Arena back to the Kempers. You know,  let the rich dudes work it all out. Isn’t that what Donald Trump and the Republican Party are all about? Free enterprise taking care of biz.

So why force impoverished Kansas City taxpayers to choke out seven figures every year to keep Kemper on life (death) support?

Because Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes sealed a really bad deal on Kemper 10 years back when she gave away the farm on the Sprint Center. Kemper was being managed at the time by Philadelphia’s Comcast Spectator and had been cleaned up nicely and was in the black.

Unfortunately Barnes kicked Spectator to the curb and gave new Sprint operator AEG the right to run Kemper. That turned out to be a conflict-of-interest, kiss of death disaster.

Which brings us to the here and now.

Not that Sprint’s been a complete bust.

Other than AEG’s failure to make good on a vow to bring the NHL or NBA to KC, it’s performed rather well. However Kemper’s been a red ink machine ever since.

Which opened the door to horse show loving backers of the downtrodden American Royal to try and pull a fast one by conning the city into razing Kemper and building a new, smaller arena. Fortunately sanity prevailed.

Except for the latest long shot proposal by a group called the Foutch Brothers. The brothers wanna drop $25 to $30 million – much of it in historic tax credits – and turn Kemper into a multi-level, indoor sports hub. You know, for world class sporting events like amateur indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, dance, fitness, running and bicycling.

Hail Mary pass, anyone?

The Foutch folks believe that starting in 2018, Kemper could draw 1,000 visitors a day, 3000 to 5000 on weekends and half a million a year. Like a half million folks are gonna drag down to the former stockyards and West Bottoms where virtually nobody goes so they can play and watch intramural sports.

The good news is  that at least the city would divest itself of a $1 million a year obligation.

1413386104595_wps_17_Western_Sydney_Wonderers_There was a more mainstream an alternative.

A group of wealthy businessmen from Wichita wanted to preserve Kemper as a sports and entertainment venue – pick up where Spectator left off when it got unceremoniously booted – and bring back ice hockey.

So why not let the guys with the fat wallets take their shot?

Unfortunately that ship seems to have sailed,,,at least for the time being. Because now the ice hockey wannabes – Lamar Hunt, Jr. included – are trying to get the ice hockey job done in South Overland Park.

Which brings us back to the Foutch Brothers.


We go back to square one and let the Kempers sort things out rich guy style.

You know, the American way.

Why force taxpayers to risk another roll of the dice on an iffy proposition like junk sports?

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16 Responses to Hearne: Repatriate Kemper Arena


    excellent write up hearne.
    the “old” hearne is back!
    keep em coming hearne.
    finally…doing what you do best.
    The arena I think is slated for 159th street. would probably sell out because
    hockey is growing and it’s close for those out south to watch some sports.
    And guess what…KC is getting a new pro basketball team.

  2. kriskle says:

    Hey Hearne? When did Kemper Arena ever belong to the Kempers to “give it back” to them? As I recall, the Kempers solution to Kemper Arena was to tear the place down, which isn’t too bad of an idea.

  3. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    The big mistake was doing the big rehab on Kemper in the first place.

  4. CFPCowboy says:

    Sadly, we refinanced a seven year old car with a twelve year loan. Great article. Along with other Kay “Waldo” Barnes activities, including the STAR (Looks better in print here than on the paper it produces). Kansas City has always had a soft touch for buying what it can’t afford, and ignoring the disadvantages. I guess Brownback was right? If we lower the tax rate they will come? A professional hockey team in Kansas, if successful, will go a long way to helping out the state’s budget woes. It won’t cure it, but it will help. So, why does Independence have hockey, and not Kansas City? It’s the economy…well, you know the rest. What has always plagued me are the idiots that elected Barnes twice. Must have been a product of the Kansas City School System. Perhaps the simplest thing in solving the Kemper problem would be to just move the state line, declare Kemper inside the Overland Park limits, and play there. It already has the ice, the Zamboni, the parking and the concessions. Might as well sell the real estate to the neighbor and get something for it.

  5. miket. says:

    if I were a Kemper, I’d ask they at least change the name because I’d much rather be associated with an art museum than an albatross. from that point of view alone, I can see why they’d want the thing torn down.

  6. Dan says:

    Out of touch. The Foutch Brothers already run a smaller version of this up north. And, at least during the fall/winter season, venues that can accomodate indoor soccer and busting at the seams. All those kids playing soccer at that massive OP, Olathe, Lee’s Summit and other fields in the spring are now playing year around soccer. And the indoor venues can’t keep up. If you kid is playing in a league somewhere, parents will go just about anywhere to watch – there is an indoor soccer field in a random warehouse off I35 near the IRS facility right near downtown, and a volleyball space by the Argosy casino. Compared to those places, the West Bottoms is positively hopping with activity. Whether they can make a go of it year around with a variety of sports is not as clear, but there is certainly a layer you are missing here.

  7. Stomper says:

    Excellent points Dan. You’re correct that making it work on a year round basis is unclear at this point but this piece misses the mark as far as the passion for youth sports and the need for places to both practice and play. If you have kids that participate in about any organized sport, you know that. Will it be a massive money maker? Who knows at this point but the demand for places like this far outstrips the supply. Unbelievable what parents will dish out in both money and time for their kids to play soccer and lacross is exploding. The youth football league I’m active with has a 10 field complex in Olathe and we have teams from Liberty and Blue Springs ( with numbers increasing) driving some serious miles to play. Don’t tell me youth sports can’t drive some serious dollars.

    • Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

      Youth sports are being destroyed by over zealous parents/coaches with too much pride and money.

      • Stomper says:

        If parents and coaches are allowed to run roughshod, you are absolutely correct. Leagues that are run by responsible adults who recognize the value of youth sports work very hard to control those negative influences. If administered appropriately, youth sports can be a valuable influence on young people by teaching them valuable life lessons like the importance of teamwork, discipline, how to win with class and lose with grace, respect for the sport, respect for your opponent, respect for the officials, and good sportsmanship. Even if the young person never again crosses the white line onto a competitive arena, these are life lessons that create a foundation for an adult that is a positive addition to society. Youth sports teams and leagues run the gamut from good influences to bad. Not all teams/leagues/coaches/parents end up on the 6 o’clock news with ugly stories. Very often, a coach is the most positive male role model a young boy may see. Leagues must be vigilant to insure those individuals that coach our young people always remember that.


    I’ve heard from sources that hunt jr. is building a power and light district
    out at 159th street along with an arena.
    Wow…if they could add fields out there for kids that would be huge!
    We are seeing the “southern strategy” in real estate in joco.
    Amass large numbersof upscale apartments/condos/and some housing
    further south. 119th street demographics are changing and the action is
    moving south to 135th and beyond.
    But the demographics are also changing in the south part of joco
    as you are seeing a more “diverse” population increase moving into
    those areas.
    Jr. is smart. and he’s got billions to work with.
    Joco is on a huge growth spurt….and we will need these areas available
    to handle the kids that are moving further south.

    • admin says:

      There is far more to this story than even close to having been told. Stay tuned.

      • HARLEY THE GREAT says:

        good…my sources say we’ve not heard the last of what
        will be done with kemper.
        thanks hearne….this article explained things well.

  9. I will take it….and pay 6 figures a year.
    Make it happen Hearne

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