The Kansas City Council today will consider a move to ratchet down Kemper Arena’s operations, even as some preservationists urge the city to save Kemper.
The council’s Finance and Governance Committee on Wednesday supported a plan to end Anschutz Entertainment Group’s contract to manage and promote Kemper and the American Royal Center as a viable alternative to the Sprint Center.
The proposal to terminate AEG’s contract six months early goes to the full council today for consideration.
AEG was being paid $216,000 in annual management fees for Kemper and the American Royal Center, and the city will still have to pay the remaining $126,000 owed for this year’s fee.
Convention and Entertainment Centers Director Oscar McGaskey said the sooner the city can take over running the building, the sooner it can start to save money on staffing and utilities. Kemper has very few events planned the rest of this year, and the city plans a bare-minimum operation, with an eye to saving more than $400,000 annually.
Bob Petersen, president and CEO of the American Royal Association, told the committee he supports the city taking back control of the complex.
“It’s the logical step that recognizes the reality of the situation,” he said.
The American Royal Association has proposed that Kemper Arena should be demolished and replaced with a smaller facility designed specifically for equine and agricultural events. The city and the American Royal are still trying to figure out how to pay for such a project.
But not everyone supports Kemper’s demise.
Kansas City architect Erik Heitman said in an interview Wednesday that he and a group of preservationists want to see Kemper saved.
Heitman, who is chairman of Kansas City’s Historic Preservation Commission, said Kemper Arena has significance in the history of modern architecture and deserves more respect.
“It’s a great community asset,” he said.
Through the advocacy of Heitman and others, the building recently was included on a list of Missouri’s endangered historic buildings. Heitman said that’s a first step toward getting the building registered as a historic landmark. He said there are a wealth of tools, such as historic tax credits, that could be used to maintain and repurpose it.
But McGaskey said he was not aware of a major effort under way to save the building. The council has yet to decide on Kemper’s long-term future.