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Kemper Arena

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Kemper Arena from Quality Hill
Location 1800 Genessee, Kansas City, MO 64102

39°5′31″N 94°36′21″W / 39.09194°N 94.60583°W / 39.09194; -94.60583Coordinates: 39°5′31″N 94°36′21″W / 39.09194°N 94.60583°W / 39.09194; -94.60583{{#coordinates:39|5|31|N|94|36|21|W|type:landmark_scale:2000 |primary |name=

Owner City of Kansas City (MO)
Operator Anschutz Entertainment Group
Capacity 19,500
Surface Artificial turf, ice, hardwood
Broke ground July 17, 1972
Opened 1974
Construction cost $23 million
Architect Helmut Jahn
Kansas City Scouts (NHL) (1974–1976)
Kansas City Kings (NBA) (1974–1985)
Kansas City Blues (CHL) (1976–1977)
Kansas City Comets (MSL) (1981–1991)
Kansas City Blades (IHL) (1990–2001)
Kansas City Attack/Comets (NPSL/MISL) (1992–2005)
Kansas City Explorers (WTT) (1993–2001)
Kansas City Knights (ABA) (2000–2002)
Kansas City Outlaws (UHL) (2004–2005)
Kansas City Brigade (AFL) (2006–2007)
1988 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament

Kemper Arena is a 19,500 seat indoor arena in Kansas City, Missouri. It has hosted NCAA Final Four basketball games, professional basketball and hockey teams, the 1976 Republican National Convention, concerts, and is the ongoing host of the American Royal livestock show.

It is named for R. Crosby Kemper Sr., a member of the powerful Kemper financial clan and who donated $3.2 million from his estate for the arena.


Helmut Jahn's first major project rises from the stockyards

Kemper Arena was built in 18 months in 1973–74 on the site of the former Kansas City Stockyards just west of downtown in the West Bottoms to replace the 8,000-seat Municipal Auditorium to play host to the city's professional basketball and hockey teams.

The arena was the first major project of German architect Helmut Jahn who was to go on to become an important architect of his era.

The building was revolutionary in its simplicity and the fact it did not have interior columns obstructing views. Its roof is suspended by exterior steel trusses. The nearly windowless structure contrasts to Jahn's later signature style of providing wide open glass enclosed spaces. Kemper's exterior skeleton style was to be used extensively throughout Jahn's other projects.

The building cost $22 million and is owned by the city of Kansas City, Missouri. Financing came from seven sources:

  • $5.6 million from general obligation bonds
  • $3.2 million donated by R. Crosby Kemper Sr.
  • $575,000 dollars from bond interest
  • $1.5 million donated by the American Royal Association
  • Land provided by the Kansas City Stockyards Company
  • $10 million from revenue bonds in conjunction with the Jackson County Sports Authority
  • $2 million in federal grants for street work

Glory days in the 1970s

File:1976 Republican National Convention.jpg
The 1976 Republican National Convention. Vice-Presidential Candidate Bob Dole is on the far left, Governor Ronald Reagan is center shaking hands with President Ford, and Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller is just to the right of Ford.

The arena won architectural awards in the 1970s and had four very prominent tenants:

1979 roof collapse

On June 4, 1979 at 6:45 p.m., a major storm with Script error: No such module "convert". winds and heavy rains caused a portion of Kemper Arena's roof to collapse. Since the Arena was not in use at the time, no one was injured.

The collapse—three years after the hall had hosted the 1976 Republican National Convention -- along with another Kansas City structural failure -- the 1981 Hyatt Regency walkway collapse -- shocked the city and the architecture world.

The American Institute of Architects had given the building an "Honor" award in 1976[1] and thousands of its members were at its annual national conference there less than 24 hours before the 1979 collapse. Further, the collapse coupled with the January 18, 1978, collapse of the Hartford Civic Center from heavy snow in the early morning hours just after a University of Connecticut basketball game prompted architects to seriously reconsider computer models used to determine the safety of arenas.

The arena was one of the first major projects by influential architect Helmut Jahn who was to take over the Murphy/Jahn firm founded by Charles Murphy. Steel trusses that hung from three huge portals supported the reinforced concrete roof. Design elements had called for compensating for winds that caused the roof to swing like a pendulum. The exterior skeleton design had been considered revolutionary in its simplicity (it was built in 18 months).

Two major factors came together on June 4, to cause the collapse.

First, the roof had been designed to gradually release rainwater as the sewers in the West Bottoms could not adequately handle the rapid runoff because of the nearby confluence of the Missouri River and Kansas River. This caused the downpour to "pond" (where water fills in as the roof sagged) adding to the weight.

Second, there had been a miscalculation on the strength of the bolts on the hangers when subjected to the Script error: No such module "convert". winds while supporting the additional rainwater weight as the roof swung back and forth. Once one of the bolts gave way there was a cascading failure on the south side of the roof. Although the bolts were enormous, the media was to make much of the fact that "one broken bolt caused the collapse."

Approximately one acre, or Script error: No such module "convert". × Script error: No such module "convert". of roof collapsed. The air pressure, increased by the rapidly falling roof caused some of the walls to blow out. However, the portals remained undamaged..."

An investigation was conducted, and the issues were addressed and the arena reopened within a year.

College basketball mecca

In the 1980s the arena became famed for its basketball tournaments including:

Other professional sports

1999 death of WWF superstar Owen Hart and aftermath

On May 23, 1999, Kemper Arena hosted the WWF (now WWE) pay-per-view Over the Edge, where WWF superstar Owen Hart fell to his death from the rafters after attempting to descend while in his super hero gimmick of The Blue Blazer. A few months later, Owen's brother, Bret Hart and longtime friend Chris Benoit had a tribute match in honor of Owen at Kemper Arena on WCW Monday Nitro. In this very arena on August 26, 1999, WWE debuted their new show called SmackDown! on UPN.

1990s additions and renovations

Additional American Royal livestock buildings were built adjoining Kemper in 1991–92 at a cost of $33.4 million (the City of Kansas City built the original American Royal Arena in 1922 nearby for about $650,000)

In 1997, a $23 million expansion made significant changes to the original Jahn design—most notably a glass enclosed east lobby. Other changes include: 2,000 more seats, upgraded lower-level seating, four restrooms, and a handicapped entrance to the arena.

American Royal

The American Royal Association has hosted livestock events at Kemper since it was first constructed. The Royal also helped pay for the original building. Its office is located in the building along with the American Royal Museum. The American Royal Association is home to the American Royal Horse Show, Livestock Show, and Rodeo and which hosts a six-week festival each October to November.



The American Hereford Association bull and Kemper Arena and the Kansas City Live Stock Exchange Building in the former stockyards of the West Bottoms as seen from Quality Hill

The facilities are managed by AEG, including:

  • Hale Arena – 5,000 seat capacity (17,000 sq ft.)
  • Kemper Arena – 19,500 seat capacity
  • The Governor’s Building – Script error: No such module "convert"..
  • Lower Level Exhibition Hall – Script error: No such module "convert"..
  • Upper Level Exhibition Hall – Script error: No such module "convert"..
  • Wagstaff Theatre – 450 seat capacity
  • The American Royal Museum
  • Scott Pavilion – permanent dirt floor animal warm up area
  • West Bottoms Garage – 995 spaces
  • Six Surface Parking Lots – approximately 4,500 spaces


Preceded by
Municipal Auditorium
Home of the
Kansas City Kings

Succeeded by
Sacramento Sports Arena
Preceded by
Miami Beach Convention Center
Host of the
Republican National Convention

Succeeded by
Joe Louis Arena
Preceded by
Louisiana Superdome
NCAA Men's Division I
Basketball Tournament
Finals Venue

Succeeded by
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Kansas City Scouts

Succeeded by
McNichols Sports Arena
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Kansas City Brigade

Succeeded by
Sprint Center