With just weeks to go until the new Hy-Vee Arena hosts its first pickleball tournament, lacquer is drying on the floor of the second-floor basketball and volleyball courts.
There’s still plenty left to do before the West Bottoms’ historic Kemper Arena reopens as Hy-Vee Arena, but vendors have signed on to lease most of the commercial space in the building. And construction crews have begun installing flooring on top of the bare cement in the concourses. The lower-level courts on the original floor of the arena aren’t as far along as the gleaming wood on the newly installed second level.
The Kansas City Council sold Kemper Arena to Foutch Brothers a year and a half ago for just $1. The developers have spent $39 million overhauling it to become a youth and adult sports facility with various retailers — including coffee shops, arcades and games, shops and wellness businesses — and what is billed as the longest indoor track in the 48 contiguous states.
“It’s going to be great for Kansas City because this will be a destination for visitors from around the country to come see if they’re into sports of any kind,” Kansas City Councilman Scott Taylor said on a tour of the unfinished building Monday. “Every weekend is basically booked for tournaments, whether it’s volleyball, basketball, pickleball, a lot of other sports.”
The old Kemper Arena seated 19,500. In the new arena, the upper level seats 5,000, and the lower level seats about 3,500.
The arena will host its first pickleball tournament starting Sept. 21, and it will open to the public Oct. 5 with a happy hour. Beth Omecene Epperson, marketing manager, said the arena staff was trying to get the event certified as the world’s largest happy hour.
As part of the opening weekend festivities, Taylor said, the Harlem Legends — retired Harlem Globetrotters players — are set to play at the arena Oct. 6.