KC's historic Kemper Arena to become Hy-Vee Arena under new naming rights deal

Get used to it, Kansas City: The historic arena in the West Bottoms that once hosted professional basketball and hockey is now called Hy-Vee Arena.

The Kemper Arena name affixed to the arena that opened in 1974 has faded away, thanks to a new deal between the grocery store chain and the owner of the facility, who is turning it into a $39 million youth and adults sports facility.

Steve Foutch, chief executive of Foutch Architecture and Development, announced the 10-year naming rights deal in front of Hy-Vee Arena on Thursday afternoon, months ahead of its expected re-opening this fall.

The Hy-Vee deal replaces a previous naming rights agreement on the arena with Mosaic Life Care, a St. Joseph-based clinic network. An arrangement to re-brand Kemper Arena into Mosaic Arena fell apart late last year when St. Luke's Health System bought Mosaic's Kansas City clinics.

Foutch did not disclose the financial terms of the deal with Hy-Vee.

"It was a little bit better than the Mosaic deal," he said.

For Hy-Vee, which is based in West Des Moines, Iowa, and has 20 grocery store locations in Kansas City, the naming rights deal figures to give the company more visibility in the competitive grocery store market in the region.

"This fit really well as an iconic building that's been in Kansas City for a long time," said Drew Holmes, senior regional vice president for the Kansas City market and southwest region. "It was something that appealed to our store directors about how we can be involved and invest in Kansas City sports."

Hy-Vee has a history of sponsorships with local sports. Longtime Kansas City Royals fans will recall the former Hy-Vee seats in the upper reaches of Kauffman Stadium. Hy-Vee has an ongoing corporate sponsorship with the Kansas City Chiefs, the University of Kansas, University of Missouri, and Kansas State University.

Hy-Vee Arena will be home to 84,000 square feet of sports and event space when it opens this fall. Foutch expects the new arena will be home to local recreational and high school sports events, as well as attract regional and national competitions.

Foutch said the arena's redevelopment is about 70 percent complete and is scheduled for an Oct. 5 grand opening.

"All the hard stuff is done," he said.

Kansas Citians who went to Kemper Arena for Kansas City Scouts, Kansas City Kings and Big 12 tournament games won't easily recognize the newly renovated interior of the facility. What had been a 19,500-seat arena that was remarkable in its heyday for having no seats obstructed by interior columns is now separated into two floors.

Foutch and his general contractor, McCownGordon, hauled 140 truckloads of concrete at a cost of $6 million to create two floors in the middle of the arena. Both floors will feature basketball courts.

Above those two courts is a five-lane, 350-meter indoor track, which Foutch said is the largest indoor track in the lower 48 states.

The old Replays Bar & Grill has been refashioned into a private entrance. Other amenities will include fitness gyms, golf simulators, video game rooms, retail and restaurants.

Foutch bought the old Kemper Arena from the city in 2017 for $1. He had originally approached the city about redeveloping the arena in 2014, but backed away after leadership at the American Royal claimed he was interfering with their lease on the arena and the American Royal Complex.

At the time, the American Royal was hoping to convince city leaders to agree to a hefty subsidy in order to replace Kemper Arena with a multipurpose arena more suitable to the livestock association's needs.

But Kansas City leaders were not interested in the American Royal's idea, and the association later announced it would pursue new facilities in Wyandotte County.

Foutch re-entered the picture and in 2016 the arena was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, helping Foutch qualify for $14 million in tax credits.