‘Arena Poor’ In KC?

In and around Kansas City, Mo., three potential arenas are in the works, and it’s a race to see which one will be KC’s newest venue. Or two. Or maybe three.

The Sprint Center, which is getting financing help from Anschutz Entertainment Group, is slated to replace Kemper Arena as the market’s marquee venue and be built in the downtown area. Over in the KC suburb of Overland Park, Kan., a potential arena has just received state approval for $50 million in bonds. There’s a third facility trying to get off the ground in suburban Olathe, Kan., too.

Then, there’s the unresolved matter of what to do with Kemper once Sprint Center opens.

Recently, The Kansas City Star published an article questioning whether the two to three arenas could compete.

“It’s like a nightmare, isn’t it?” sports economist Robert Baade told the paper. “You’ve got a recipe for ruinous financial competition among these arenas for highly attended events.”

The two ‘burb facilities have seating in the 8,000 to 10,000 range, while the Sprint Center is slated for 18,000 to 20,000 seats. Time is running out for the Olathe venue; developers reportedly have to prove to the state they’re making progress or lose financing.

The recent influx of state bond money granted the Overland Park arena also decreases the Olathe project’s chances.

Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert told the Star his venue will not compete with Sprint Center, which is trying to lure an NBA or NHL franchise. The suburban arena would be next to the Overland Park International Trade Center, so convention business could be a factor.

“If you’re looking at the metropolitan area as a whole, whether it’s an arena downtown or an arena in the suburbs, it seems to me like in both instances, they make a positive contribution to the metropolitan area as a whole,” Eilert said.

Bill Dietrich, president of the Downtown Council, did not welcome the Overland Park arena, and the same went for Andi Udris, president and CEO of the Kansas City Economic Development Corp.

“[The arena] would take some market share from the arena downtown, but the question is: Which one has more staying power?” Udris told the paper. “The downtown arena is more central to the metro. When you build on the fringe, you’re narrowing your market share.”