October 3, 2012
The roots of today’s American Royal can be traced to 1899 when the fledgling event was referred to as the National Hereford Show. Billed as the first nationwide show for the exposition and sale of purebred cattle, it took place during the month of October in a tent in the West Bottoms.
The three-day sale drew close to 55,000 people and featured roughly 300 Herefords that were sold at auction for a little over $400 a head. For several years after that first show, the annual event took place at a number of venues across Kansas City, including Electric Park, Convention Hall, and of course, the Kansas City Stockyards.
According to legend, the American Royal building that formerly stood in the West Bottoms was of “reinforced concrete, brick and tile, practically fireproof, 782 feet long, two stories in height and over six acres of floor area. There were 6,100 permanent seats, arranged amphitheater style around the arena. Seats 10,000 to 12,000 if arena is used.”
The American Royal derived its name from an editorial written to a beef industry publication titled “The Drovers Telegraph,” citing a similar show in Great Britain called the Royal Show.
Many a Kansas City Blues hockey game once took place in the American Royal building, as it was the primary venue for hockey and basketball prior to the construction of Kemper Arena. With the completion of the Sprint Center, the American Royal gained exclusive use of Kemper Arena.