The Kansas City Council votes Thursday on a measure that would authorize the transfer of Kemper Arena to Foutch Brothers for $1.
That paves the way for a $30 million redevelopment project to renovate the moribund West Bottoms arena as a destination amateur sports hub.
The council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Committee endorsed a measure Wednesday that authorizes the city manager to carry out a real estate sale agreement with Foutch.
The measure goes to the full council Thursday for a final vote. Except for a rezoning review in March, it’s the last regulatory approval needed to remove the facility from city ownership.
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Foutch’s plan calls for turning the arena into a two-level facility for all sorts of youth and adult amateur sports, plus office, entertainment and health care uses. The facility will be renamed Mosaic Arena, after the St. Joseph health care company that bought the naming rights and will have a clinic and sports medicine service in the building.
“This will be a real asset for the entire region,” Councilman Quinton Lucas said in commending Foutch Brothers for its ambitious plan.
Committee chairman Scott Taylor said it will be a big draw for families, students and adults to the West Bottoms and should add to the historic district’s burgeoning small business and restaurant growth.
Although the sale price is paltry, the real benefit to the city is that it will eliminate about $1 million per year for public maintenance costs. The city has long wanted to transfer Kemper Arena to a private developer because it has been virtually empty and little used since the Sprint Center opened downtown in 2007.
Other cities have struggled to find positive new uses for their secondary arenas. Steve Foutch, CEO of Foutch Brothers, told the committee that his company has received calls from other cities curious about this reuse concept. He said the facility is already 40 percent pre-leased.
The developer still must arrange for about $8.3 million in state and federal historic tax credits, which could take another 30 to 60 days to achieve. The project also relies on some property tax abatement for the building, but not the land.
The property transfer does not include all the parking around Kemper Arena. Foutch said it does include about 150 spaces in Lot A to the north of the arena, but not the much larger Lot B to the east. That parking lot will remain in the city’s control. Foutch said that lot will be used for large weekend tournaments that occur at the arena, but the city would collect any revenue from those parking spaces and would keep that money.
This has been a four-year odyssey for Foutch, who first conceived of the idea of repurposing Kemper Arena in 2013. The American Royal Association opposed his plan but eventually backed off and now has plans to move to Kansas.
Foutch said he’s relieved the long planning stage is almost reaching the finish line.
“Eager to get started,” he said about actual construction. The best-case scenario is a groundbreaking in late April and completion of the project in about a year.