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Kemper Arena dedicated

DATE OF EVENT: Friday, Oct. 18, 1974

DATE PUBLISHED: Friday, Oct. 18, 1974, in The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: When Kemper Arena was dedicated in 1974, it was part of a larger revitalization of Kansas City meant to attract tourists and conventions. Two years later, it was host for the Republican National Convention, which nominated President Gerald Ford to run against Jimmy Carter. The new arena would become a celebrated center for entertainment and events in Kansas City. Singers, sports events, cattle shows would attract millions of ticketholders.

The R. Crosby Kemper Memorial Arena was dedicated today, and the principal speaker, Earl Butz, secretary of agriculture, told the spectators that the building would be a monument to the agricultural greatness of the Midwest.

In unveiling designs for bronze plaques to commemorate the dedication ceremonies, Butz said they symbolized the dedication of the arena “to the pursuit of excellence, to the encouragement of healthy competition and to the recognition of this area as one of the major centers of the world for agricultural enterprises.”

“Since the days of earliest civilizations,” Butz said, “men have built arenas as civic centers of entertainment and celebration—places where people gathered to honor outstanding skill and achievement. This arena is such a place.”

The arena will hold its first event two weeks from tomorrow with the first home game of the newly franchised Kansas City Scouts, who will play the Chicago Blackhawks in National Hockey League competition.

“There may be some who will perceive this arena more as a dedication to hockey than the Herefords,” Butz quipped. “But regardless of our special interest, all of us take pride in the fact that we are naming this magnificent new structure in honor of the remarkable civic leader, who for more than six decades devoted himself to the growth, stability, strength and creation of livability for Kansas City.”

Butz also had considerable praise for the American Royal Live Stock and Horse Show, which will move into the new arena next year with an expanded format.

“It (Kansas City) is the home of the American Royal,” Butz said. “The American Royal typifies Kansas City—some might even say the American Royal is Kansas City. For this prestigious show is a major connecting link between the city’s trade and transportation facilities and the agricultural empire that surrounds them.”

With Butz at the dedication were the governors of Missouri and Kansas, Christopher Bond and Robert Docking, respectively.

Kansas City and Kansas City, Kansas, were represented by their respective mayors, Charles Wheeler, Jr., and Richard Walsh.

R. Crosby Kemper, Jr., the son of the man for whom the arena is named and the representative of the family that gave the project its final push toward construction, was there, as was Willis C. Theis, the president of the America Royal, a prime sponsor of the arena since its inception.

The Future Farmers of America band and chorus provided entertainment.

The gleaming white arena stands today in the stockyards, just north of the American Royal building, nearly complete. With expanded seating on the floor it will hold 17,000 spectators for basketball and 16,000 for hockey games. For track and field events, the American Royal and other events that will use all floor space, the arena will seat 15,000 persons.

The Royal was to have been held at the arena this year, but labor disputes caused construction delays which made this impossible.

However, Royal officials, somewhat disappointed that the arena would be unavailable this year, took the delays in stride and even said they would be a boon to planning next year’s show.

Willis Theis, Royal president, said recently that the delay will give time for the “bugs” present in all new buildings to be worked out and for the Royal officials to plan a new Royal for 1975.

“Starting next year,” Theis said, “we’ll have a whole new format for the show. The first week we’ll have a rodeo and Western horse classes, and the second week we’ll have a saddle horse show with specific breeds of livestock shown. This is a new element and it will be identifiable with the Royal and it will be exciting.”

The dimensions of the arena are gargantuan: 424 feet from north to south; 310 feet from east to west and 95 feet from the floor to the ceiling inside.

The farthest distance from any seat in the arena to the floor will be 150 feet for seats to the east and west of the floor, and 200 feet for the seats north and south of the floor.