Inside the Kemper Arena renovation being undertaken by the Foutch Brothers

Paul Thompson
Northeast News

The Foutch Brothers are hoping to turn Kemper Arena’s million-dollar per year drain on the Kansas City, Missouri coffers into an economic boon for the city’s West Bottoms neighborhood.

Last year, KCMO sold Kemper Arena to Foutch Brothers for one dollar. The City also agreed to freeze property taxes for the site at current levels for more than a decade – leaving those costs at approximately $30,000 annually. In return, Foutch Brothers has been tasked with transforming the vacant arena – which had been costing $1 million in annual operating costs – into a massive amateur sports and entertainment complex capable of providing day one tax revenue for the aging but iconic Kansas City asset.

The plans for the complex are grandiose – Foutch Brothers are set to spend a combined $42 million in hard and soft construction costs to transform the vacant arena into a four-level city-within-a-city featuring 12 all-purpose sports courts, a 350 meter, five-lane upper level running track, food courts, coffee shops, 75 big screen TV’s, free Wi-Fi and charging stations throughout (courtesy of a deal with Spectrum), at least one sports apparel store, a health center, a hair salon, a golf driving range simulator and, hopefully, a wide range of activities that will keep the arena bustling from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. every day, year round.

Foutch Brothers CEO Steve Foutch led a guided tour of the construction site on the morning of Tuesday, February 6.

“You can be an athlete, or you can be a parent, or both. There might be people coming in during the day just to get something to eat, but then see pickup basketball games and play that,” said Foutch. “They might get their nails done, or get a massage, or go to the medical center if they’re not feeling well.”

The tour was organized by 6th District Councilman Scott Taylor, a longtime proponent of the plan. Taylor told tour attendees that he expects the project be a transformative development for all of Kansas City, but especially for the West Bottoms.

“We stressed early that this really needed to be a transformative thing that was inclusive,” Taylor said. “The multi-family interest in the West Bottoms is in part being driven by the major investment.”

A media gaggle spent more than an hour at the facility, looking on as workers laid down concrete for the new third-floor athletic courts. Foutch even revealed one tenant who has signed on the dotted line: the KC Crew recreational sports league, which will bring its various leagues (and estimated 15,000-strong mailing list of league participants) to the new arena beginning in the fall of 2018. The kickoff event for the renovated arena will be an international pickleball tournament set for September 20, 2018.

Upon completion, Foutch suggested that 40-50 retailers will ultimately operate in the arena, which is expected to host a wide variety of amateur sports tournaments, while offering a plethora of ancillary training services for an additional charge.

Moving forward, Foutch Brothers is expected to pursue partnerships with local non-profits.

“There will be a lot of opportunity,” Foutch said. “We are working with Variety KC and some other non-profits.”

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