Kemper Arena decision still a ways from being a done deal

Kansas City has owed debt continuously on Kemper Arena since 1973.

But later this month, the city will make its final debt payment on the aging arena — and then get it off its hands.

A press release from Kansas City on Monday described Kemper Arena’s fate as fait accompli. The Foutch Brothers, at long last, would get to preserve much of Kemper Arena as we see it today but re-fashion it into a youth and adult recreation facility. That decision came from a selection committee comprised of city staffers and elected officials.

But Foutch Brothers has a ways to go before crossing that finish line.

Financing for their plan remains somewhat up in the air. The Foutch Brothers are expected to request a tax abatement on the Kemper Arena property. If they get that abatement request, it won’t affect municipal or taxing jurisdiction budgets; Kansas City currently owns Kemper, and thus receives nothing in property taxes today.

The Foutch Brothers plan also hinges on getting state and federal historical designations on Kemper Arena, which subsequently makes the facility eligible for historic tax credits.

City officials described the procurement of tax credits as an important segment of the project’s financing. 

“This is a complex deal to rehab an arena like this,” said Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte in a Tuesday council meeting.

The selection committee’s preference for the Foutch Brothers leaves an alternate proposal by wealthy Wichita businessmen Rodney and Brandon Steven on the outside looking in. The Stevens wanted to keep ice hockey and other entertainment events going at Kemper Arena. Councilmembers are expected to more clearly explain their reason for picking the Foutch Brothers over the Steven proposal during a public meeting on Wednesday at Kemper Arena. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

For nostalgic Kansas Citians, it may be their last chance to see Kemper Arena is its current form.

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