Although Steve Foutch likes to joke he started demolition 10 minutes after he got the keys to Kemper Arena from the city, his company held a formal groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
Over the next several months, Foutch Brothers will transform the indoor arena with its distinctive exoskeleton into an amateur sports facility, a development project with the potential to transform the West Bottoms.
The new Mosaic Arena is already booked for weekend tournaments through 2018.
“We’re actually behind schedule,” Foutch says. “McCownGordon is going to get us caught up a little bit, but yeah, we should’ve been open months ago. We had a lot of tournaments and other activities go that we just couldn’t promise we’d be open in time.”
Foutch paid $1 for the arena in February. The venue hadn’t attracted big acts in years and was costing the city $1 million annually to maintain. But the project stalled in the spring when the state ran out of money for historic tax credits. Foutch had to wait for the fiscal year to reset July 1 to begin construction.
The extensive renovation adds 12 basketball courts on two floors, an indoor running track and 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
Building the second floor will cost $6 million.
“You have to carve out the concrete. We’re sitting on a beach, basically. So we have to go down 85 feet to get to bedrock to put in foundations to put in these massive steel structures to hold up that floor,” Foutch says.
It’s expected the half million people who will visit Mosaic Arena each year will drive redevelopment in the West Bottoms and the Stockyards.
“With the naming rights, (Mosaic Life Care) will put in a health clinic, which will be available to the public,” says Councilman Scott Taylor. “I can tell you, we worked to get a health clinic out south for years. To have it come into the West Bottoms with this project is great.”
There are already eight restaurants within two blocks of the arena. McGonigle’s Meat Market is currently testing out a food truck nearby.
Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.