It’s all about the barbecue.
That seems to the most pressing reason why American Royal Association chairman Mariner Kemper wants to demolish and replace the 40-year-old arena bearing his family’s name. Everything else — the numbers, the lease issue, a possible partnership with Sporting Club, a West Bottoms development jump-start — might as well be smoke.
The American Royal’s annual barbecue festival, which attracts 75,000 people to the West Bottoms, is overcrowded and needs room to grow, Kemper told a City Council committee on Thursday.
Kemper and the Royal’s attorney, Chase Simmons, presented a wide-ranging case for replacing the 40-year-old arena with a “shiny and new” smaller facility — paid for in large part by upwards of $50 million in city and state funds. Co-existing with a rival proposal to renovate and reuse Kemper was not an option, they said, because two buildings on the site would encroach on too much of the barbecue event space.
Kemper dismissed the privately funded $22 million renovation proposed by developer Steve Foutch as a mere idea.
Councilman Ed Ford, the committee chair, properly expressed hope for accomplishing both projects and saving the architecturally distinctive Kemper.
Clearly the coals are still heating up on this council study.