One Arena Down In KC

There’s one less arena going into the Kansas City, Mo., market. The KC suburb of Olathe will no longer pursue plans for a 9,000-seat venue in its $265 million retail project.

That leaves the KC suburb of Overland Park with its arena proposal; the 20,000-seat Sprint Center, which is scheduled to break ground shortly; and the aging Kemper Arena.

“We tried to aim high and grab something out there, but in the final analysis, our fiduciary responsibility is to our taxpayers,” Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland told The Kansas City Star.

“We just got to the point where we just decided we didn’t want to take that risk (of including an arena in the project). … We didn’t want to risk our credit rating and put undue financial risk on our taxpayers.”

The $250 million Sprint Center is expected to replace the Kemper Arena as the city’s marquee venue. Anschutz Entertainment Group has injected $50 million into the project and will operate the building.

Up until now Olathe and Overland Park surprisingly moved forward with their projects, with Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert saying his city’s $150 million, 8,000-seat arena project would not compete with the Sprint Center.

That proposed venue, which the city hopes will attract minor league basketball and hockey teams, is still moving forward. The decision to do so received the brunt of critical remarks from AEG President Tim Leiweke, who told KC’s City Council that taxpayers were going to get “screwed” by Overland Park’s plans (and, at the time, Olathe’s plans, as well).

“There’s going to be one major league arena in the heart of this country, and it’s going to be Sprint Center,” Leiweke said. “If the other sports ultimately want to be able to compete in this marketplace and generate the kind of revenue they need to generate to survive, I think they’ll have a hard time trying to convince an advertiser to get behind a minor league arena when they could’ve played in a major league arena.”

Eilert said the comments were over the top.

“I don’t see a small suburban arena 20 or 30 minutes away competing with Mr. Leiweke’s arena,” he told the Star.