The Foutch Brothers proposal for a reimagined Kemper Arena would add a second floor at the arena’s balcony level, more than doubling the court space available for future youth sports activities.
The repurposing plan Kansas City officials have chosen to pursue would span the original arena floor with a second level, adding enough new floor space for seven high school-sized athletic courts. Those would be in addition to four courts that could be positioned on the existing arena floor.
The city’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee will unveil plan details to the public Wednesday evening with a tour at 6 and a public hearing at 7.
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If all the needed financing details fall into place, developer Steve Foutch said, the facility could be redeveloped by the end of 2017 at an estimated cost of $25 million to $30 million.
“We’re looking at court space for 150 kids per hour,” Foutch said. “Conservatively, we’re looking at serving 1,000 kids per day, 3,000 to 5,000 per weekend tournaments, and easily half a million to a million a year.”
According to drawings, the proposed second floor would be positioned just above the arena’s existing private suites and just below the existing upper tier of seats.
The plan, under the possible name of KC Youth Sports Complex, would include locker rooms, a weight room, medical and physical therapy rooms, batting cages, offices, party suites, conference rooms, team rooms and retail and concession spaces.
The existing ground-floor concourse ringing the arena floor would be reconfigured for food service with spaces for tables and chairs.
“This is perfect,” said Lisa Diven, director of community impact at the Kansas City Sports Commission. “There aren’t a ton of courts and nice facilities available in Kansas City proper. This would add to Kansas City’s ability to bring in outside sporting events, and it would open up more opportunities for kids in Kansas City to participate in sports.”
Diven said the economic benefit of youth sports tournaments is tremendous because of the money spent by families, officials and fans on lodging, dining and sightseeing while in the city.
According to Visit KC, two recent sports tournaments held in Kansas City injected nearly $22 million into the local economy. The Junior Volleyball Association World Challenge brought 18,000 attendees to the city, who spent $7.8 million, and a USA Volleyball national qualifier brought 25,000 attendees and $14 million.
The Foutch team projected that uses could include indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball, futsal, track, wrestling, gymnastics, cheer, dance, martial arts and other fitness purposes. The facility also would be available for conventions and events such as graduations.
Foutch Brothers, based in Kansas City, was one of two companies that had submitted Kemper renovation proposals to the city.
The Foutch company already is working on a five-building conversion of the former West High School and Switzer Elementary School buildings into 114 market-rate apartments on Kansas City’s West Side. It also is converting to apartments an office tower in Des Moines, Iowa, and a building in Leavenworth.
Foutch Brothers still would have to negotiate and complete purchase of the facility from the city. The city has been spending about $1 million a year on maintenance of the arena, which has been vastly underused since the Sprint Center opened nearly 10 years ago.
Foutch said Monday that he is in the middle of negotiations with the city but expects to acquire the property for a “nominal” amount, given that reusing Kemper would save the city the cost of demolition.
The proposal also needs rezoning and replatting to proceed.
None of this is a done deal unless state and federal authorities agree that Kemper Arena is worthy of placement on the National Register of Historic Places. That step is necessary to apply for historic tax credits that could cover more than one-third of the redevelopment costs.
Foutch said he has banking and equity partners “sitting there, waiting” on final word that Kemper has obtained historic designation. He said he hopes to receive word soon on the progress of his application.
Another part of the needed financing plan involves Foutch getting approval for property tax abatement. Foutch said he will seek 100 percent abatement for 10 years through the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.
“We have some anchor tenants landed that we can’t announce yet,” Foutch said. “That’s raising the cost a bit because with high-quality sports, health and fitness tenants, they’re looking for a high-quality facility.”