Community
3:11 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

TIMELINE: A Look Back At 40 Years Of Kansas City's Kemper Arena

It's easy to forget about Kemper Arena.

Nestled down in the south end of the West Bottoms in Kansas City, Mo., the aging arena has seen better days. Since 2007, the Sprint Center has hosted virtually all the big-name events coming through town, leaving Kemper nearly inactive for long periods of time.

But there could be big changes on the way for the ailing events center. The city's Economic Development Committee is reviewing two rival options for the arena. One plan would demolish the building, the other would turn it into a youth sports hub.

On Friday's Central Standard, guest host Monroe Dodd sat down with Livestock Exchange owner Bill Haw and preservationist Elizabeth Rosin to talk about the history and future of Kemper Arena. 

Here is a timeline of the arena's 40-year history:

1974 – Kemper Arena opened amid a large public building boom taking place in Kansas City. Crown Center, Kansas City International Airport, Arrowhead Stadium, Royals Stadium (now Kauffman Stadium) and Kemper Arena were all built in the early 1970s. 

Elizabeth Rosin said it was all part of an attempt to flourish following World War II.

"There was a desire to create outlets for both excessive leisure time and excess change in one's pocket," Rosin said. "Many [sports arenas], like Kemper, became symbols of their community."

1976 – Just two years after Kemper Arena opened, Kansas City was picked to host the Republican National Convention. Though some expressed concerns about transporting thousands of delegates, journalists and spectators into the West Bottoms, they were soon forgotten in the excitement.

The 1976 convention was one of the last national conventions where the nomination wasn't clear until the votes were counted. Gerald Ford faced a formidable challenge from Ronald Reagan and only earned the nomination by a little over 100 votes. 

1979 – A heavy rainstorm on June 4 caused the arena's roof to cave in due to pooling rainwater. Later investigation would show that shoddy bolting, inadequate drainage infrastructure and water pressure contributed to the collapse as well.

1992 – A new American Royal building is finished next to Kemper. Events ranging from minor league basketball to roller derby have been held in the adjacent Hale Arena. 

1997 – A $23 million expansion project added nearly 2,000 seats, a ground-level entryway and a glass concourse on the east side of the building. The Big 12 Men's Basketball Conference also was held for the first time at Kemper. 

2007 – The Sprint Center opened in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Large music concerts, circuses and other events that had traditionally been held in Kemper Arena moved to the Sprint Center. 

2011  The American Royal Association and Kemper family announced a plan to demolish Kemper Arena and build a new complex for the American Royal. The plan eventually was put on hold indefinitely.

2014 – Developer Foutch Brothers has proposed splitting Kemper Arena into two levels for youth sports tournament use. The City Council's economic development committee has begun a review of the two options: either raze the arena or renovate it. Public hearings begin later in July and a decision will be made within 90 days.

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