KCUR News
5:32 am
Wed May 12, 2004

City plans new $225 million arena

Kansas City, MO – Under pressure to meet an N-C AA deadline for proposals to host the Big 12 basketball tournament, Mayor Kay Barnes finally presented plans for a new arena yesterday.

Boy, have some of us been waiting for this day for a long time. This is very exciting to be able to announce plans for a new, state of the art arena in downtown Kansas City (appl)."

The arena will sit downtown between 13th and 15th streets, and between Grand Avenue and Oak Street. The mayor says the 18,000 to 20,000 seat complex will be another anchor in an entertainment district surrounding the planned H&R Block headquarters building.

The combination of the new arena, with the H&R Block headquarters and Kansas City live, plus the performing arts center will crate a spectacular new district down with something for everyone from those living here in the metropolitan area to those visiting Kansas City.

Those visitors could be asked to help pay for the arena through a $1.50 hotel fee and a $4 rental car fee. The project will cost at least $225 million to build, and public money will finance more than half of it. Some $20 million in tax increment financing funds and a user fee applied to event tickets will also help shore up the cost. The rest will come from businesses. Sprint will purchase the naming rights to the 18,000-seat complex, and entertainment company AEG will pay $50 million to the project, expecting to make money on event bookings and sales. AEG was founded by billionaire Phillip Anschutz, who has ties to both Kansas City and Lawrence. A-E-G's most widely known project may be the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and C-E-O Tim Liewicki says his company will bring big-name acts to Kansas City:

Far too often, these tours bypass Kansas City because you don't have the adequate facilities to do these national tours. And I can tell you once and for all, this facility will put Kansas City in the heart of the entertainment business in this country and you will be a must-see, must play market going forward with this building.

Moving forward means leaving behind Kemper arena, even though the city is still paying millions in bonds on Kemper's rehabilitation project. The city is already planning for the American Royal to start using Kemper for equestrian events though a report on just how to do that isn't finished. City officials are hoping A-E-G's ownership ties to the L-A Kings and L-A Lakers will help attract a new professional franchise here. A-E-G's Liewicki says he doesn't think Kansas City's failed record with N-B-A and N-H-L teams will paint a negative shade on attracting a new franchise:

I always felt, whether it be the kings or the scouts, it was not the market that failed those teams it was the teams that failed the market. I think this is an excellent opportunity for a relocation in either of those two leagues.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches is trying to raise $10 million to install a new headquarters and Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in the arena but officials don't have a firm idea of how many basketball fans would visit it. Basketball fans and city officials will have to wait and see if the arena plan is enough to convince the N-C-AA to bring the Big 12 tournament back to Kansas City. That decision is expected this summer. In the mean time, Mayor Barnes will present a plan today asking voters this August to approve the fee increase on hotel rooms and rental cars. And another competition is underway. Kansas City's burgeoning stable of sports architecture firms will be able to bid on the project over the summer.