The Buzz

January 3, 2014

Kemper death leaves American Royal project in limbo

Proposal to tear down the Kemper Arena and replace it with a new American Royal facility may stall following the death of the local philanthropist and banker.

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Local banker and philanthropist R. Crosby Kemper Jr. has died


One of his last projects involved an effort to build a new American Royal exhibition facility in the West Bottoms.

Three years ago, the cost of a new 5,000-seat facility was estimated at $60 million, including some upgrades to the existing Royal facility. The current Kemper Arena would be torn down.

Kemper Jr. and his son


were active in pursuing the project, even pledging $10 million for its costs. But additional financing was never found, and some argued against demolishing Kemper, one-time home to the Kansas City Kings and the site of the 1976 Republican National Convention here.

Famously, its roof caved in after a storm.

Kemper Jr. contributed land and cash to build the arena, in honor of his father.

The city has some interest in mothballing Kemper, which is expensive to maintain. But the Royal has a lease on Kemper through 2045, complicating discussions about its future.

It isn’t immediately clear what impact Kemper’s death will have on talks about a new American Royal exhibition hall. Given the slow progress to date, though, any immediate momentum appear unlikely.

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