By Kevin Collison
It’s naming time–again–for the former Kemper Arena, and this time Hy-Vee supermarkets is stamping its brand on the $39 million redevelopment project.
The Iowa-based chain, which operates 20 stores in metro Kansas City, is replacing Mosaic Life Care, which had to drop its naming rights agreement for the arena last December after being bought by Saint Luke’s Health System.
“Hy-Vee Arena is a perfect way for us to celebrate our 30 years of service in the metro, and it will be a fitting extension of our brand in the heart of Kansas City,” said Drew Holmes, Hy-Vee senior regional vice president.
As part of the deal, the Hy-Vee name will be displayed inside and outside the building and featured on video boards throughout the arena.
Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed, but developer Steve Foutch, CEO of Foutch Architects and Development, said the Hy-Vee deal is “a little bit better” than the previous arrangement with Mosaic.
“Hy-Vee embodies the criteria we set out in finding a naming rights partner and their reputation for excellence…is the idea fit for our venue,” Foutch said.
Work on redeveloping the West Bottoms arena into a major amateur sports complex is 70 percent complete. The next big task is laying the two acres of hardwood flooring required for its 12 basketball courts.
As a fundamental part of the project, the former 19,500-seat interior of the arena has been divided in half. The new upper level is big enough for eight high school caliber basketball courts surrounded by seating for 5,000 spectators.
The lower level can accommodate four NBA and college-caliber basketball courts and seating for 3,500 people. The top level also includes a 350-meter, five-lane indoor track, which Foutch says is the longest in the U.S. outside Alaska.
Other amenities include a a food court with a beer garden; 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.
Foutch says the building is about 70 percent leased. Tenants so far include Cherry Sportsgear, Battle Gear, Trilogy Sports and Fitness, UClick TV, Biggie’s Arcade & Games, Blue Moose, Opera House Coffee and The Smoothie Shop.
It’s expected the half million people who will visit Hy-Vee Arena each year will help drive additional redevelopment in the Stockyards District of the West Bottoms.
And some of that investment already is under way. The Yards, a 232-unit, $41 million apartment development, is currently under construction across the street from Hy-Vee Arena.
The redevelopment of the 45-year-old arena, which has been mostly vacant since the Sprint Center opened in 2007, is an unusual accomplishment.
In most American cities, obsolete arenas often have been demolished after their new, flashier replacements opened. It was costing the city $1 million to maintain the old Kemper before Foutch bought it for $1 in early 2017.
Foutch hopes to be able to duplicate the successful redevelopment of the Hy-Vee Arena in other cities that have similar surplus facilities.
“This is one more building we’ve saved now in our career,” the developer said. “It was by far the biggest and most notorious project.
“We’re looking forward to taking it on the road either to help other cities do this or do it ourselves.”
A “shakedown” opening of the new Hy-Vee Arena is scheduled for Sept. 11. That’s when members of KC Crew, a big adult athletic league in metro Kansas City, will be invited to play basketball, volleyball and use other facilities.
The first major event will be the “Third Shot’s a Charm Pickelball Festival” on Sept. 21. An estimated 500 participants are expected to play on 24 pickleball courts. A grand opening weekend for the public is scheduled for Oct. 5-7.
This article appeared originally on the KCUR public radio website.
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