KANSAS CITY, MO-In an effort to retain the annual Big 12 men’s basketball tournament and to attract other events, Kansas City officials are considering a major expansion plan for Kemper Arena, located in the West Bottoms west of Downtown. The proposal calls for a $25-million renovation on the west side of the arena. Upgrades would include new concession stands, wider corridors, larger locker rooms and the possibility of corporate suites. Design details and financing are still being discussed.

“Various leaders of the sports community and business owners in the West Bottoms are working to decide what to do with Kemper Arena,” says Joe Serviss, chief of staff to Mayor Kay Barnes. “The talk is hypothetical at this point, but it is in response to the Big 12 and keeping the tournament at Kemper. One of the key criteria to the continued use of Kemper is to improve areas such as the concessions and locker rooms.”

Kemper Arena has been the home of the Big 12 tournament and previously the Big 8 tournament since the post season tourneys were begun back in 1977. After the Big 8 added four schools from the Southwestern Conference, the conferences offices were moved to Dallas. In 1999, a decision was made to hold the tournaments in Kansas City this year, next year, in 2002 and 2005. The tournament in 2003 and 2004 will be moved to the American Airlines Arena and Reunion Arena in Dallas.

Improvements are also scheduled to be made outside the arena where parking, in the old stockyards, is very limited. Earlier this year, the city unveiled plans to build a $20 million, 1,400 parking space garage on land north of Kemper that is owned by National Farms Inc. “Building the parking garage is quite a commitment,” Serviss says, “but it will be a tremendous benefit to the area. Butler Manufacturing has relocated its headquarters to the West Bottoms and will use the parking facility during the day and people using Kemper can park there in the evenings. This is just a part of what is going on in the West Bottoms. The whole area is going into a tremendous resurrgence.”

National Farms Inc. and city officials are also looking into the possibility of creating a park to the west of Kemper Arena and on the eastern banks of the Kansas River.

Funding for the renovation of the arena may come from a 1/8 cent bi-state sales tax, which was created to help renovate Union Station. The tax expires in the spring of 2002. The city may also create a special tax district and use future revenues to fund the project. There is also the possibility of licensing the naming rights of the arena, with the approval of the Kemper family, for whom the arena is named.

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