By Kevin Collison
It takes some deep digging to get through the ancient livestock manure, river silt and other poor soil where the former Kemper Arena was located to build the foundation for its new future.
Ninety feet to be exact.
That’s how far down the four massive columns required to support the new second level being inserted in the arena will be anchored, part of its rebirth as a massive amateur sports complex to be called Mosaic Arena.
Construction is well underway on the $39 million redevelopment project with about 200 workers from McCownGordon at the site daily. The tentative grand opening has been set for Aug. 1, 2018.
“We’re extremely happy to be finally moving forward on construction,” said Steve Foutch of Foutch Brothers, the project developer. “It’s been a long time coming.
“Now I have a little chance to relax and let McCownGordon do the heavy lifting.”
What Foutch Brothers has accomplished after a lengthy process is something few cities have been able to accomplish: find a new use for the old auditorium or arena shoved aside when the shiny new facility, the Sprint Center in the case of Kansas City, was built.
Just keeping the Kemper barely maintained was costing the city $1 million annually, so its decision to unload the old building to Foutch for $1 is considered by many to be a bargain.
The redevelopment, which is being done to historic preservation standards, will replace what had been a “spectator” facility with one geared toward participants, said chief architect Caleb Buland of Exact Architects.
“We have a lot of activities scheduled,” he said. “Early education and seniors in the morning, tournament sports, high schools and collegian athletes in the afternoon and KC Crew in the evenings.
“We expect 1 million people in the first year and all but one weekend has been booked for tournaments.”
The new Mosaic Arena–it’s naming rights was purchased Mosaic Life Care–will feature 12 basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts, a five-lane 350-meter indoor running track and 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
The new level dividing the interior of the arena will create the floor space for all the new NCAA-caliber playing courts, with seating for 3,000 people in the lower bowl and 4,000 in the upper.
Buland said the Mosaic Arena will include such amenities as a food court with a beer garden featuring healthy offerings and craft beers; office space for an expected 40 small businesses and 400 daily office users; a fitness club run by a couple of Chiefs players and a golf simulator.
And while the project is maintaining the historic architecture of Kemper, some of its metallic facade will be replaced by tinted glass to allow natural light into the new office space. Buland said the glass will be mimic the look of the overall building.
Buland envisions Mosaic Arena as someday being a hub for a healthier downtown with walking and bicycling trails connecting the Stockyards District to residents living throughout downtown and into adjoining Kansas City, Kansas.
“I’ve always enjoyed urban planning as much as architecture,” he said.