By Kevin Collison
UMKC is pitching a development proposal that would anchor the south end of the new streetcar extension with a 4,000- 5,000 seat arena for sports and cultural events, according to a request for proposals issued Monday.
UMKC is asking developers to submit proposals for a project that, while the university would not provide financial help to build, would offer a lease on five acres of land it owns near the planned streetcar stop at 51st and Brookside.
“The University aspires to create a campus- and community-facing mixed-use development anchored by a new arena that will create a welcoming gateway at the western edge of campus,” according to the RFP.
“A new development that creates a highly visible gateway to campus and seamlessly transitions from the new streetcar station on Brookside Boulevard to the 51st Street pedestrian corridor is important to the University.”
The arena proposal was mentioned briefly in a State of the University speech given by UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agawal in mid-April, but no details were provided.
It represents a major shift from an earlier redevelopment proposal suggested for the site.
A previous UMKC master plan indicated the location was reserved for replacement housing for the 500-student Oak Park Apartments which were demolished in 2018 because of mold and water damage.
The new RFP, which has a deadline for respondents of July 21, offers specifics about what exactly the University of Missouri-Kansas City has in mind for its Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball teams and women’s volleyball team.
It includes an arena with 4,000- 5,000 seats; two practice courts; a 7,000 square-foot conditioning facility; several locker rooms; steam store, office space and 6,000 square feet for hospitality and events.
An arena the size envisioned by UMKC would be slightly smaller than the 5,800-seat Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.
Currently, the UMKC Kangeroo basketball and volleyball teams play at the Swinney Center on campus, a venue that can hold about 1,000 fans.
The RFP states the three sports teams combined host about 45 home games. The new arena also would be used for team practices and summer sports camps offered by UMKC.
The UMKC proposal calls for the Swinney Center to continue to be used as a student recreation center.
The request also asks developers to include retail and other commercial uses in the project, although doesn’t provide details.
The properties included in the RFP are two parcels formerly occupied by the former Oak Park Apartments project; the 369-space garage built for the apartments and a retail building along 51st Street. The plan doesn’t include the building housing Pizza 51.
“The proposer team should include street-level uses that activate the new development and draw in the campus community, visitors, and neighbors,” according to the RFP.
“UMKC believes a unique tenant mix of both anchor and neighborhood-serving retail and food service providers can provide important amenities to the community and strengthen the connection between the new development and other parts of campus.”
As for how the project would be financed, the UMKC solicitation states developers would be welcome to seek tax incentives and other financial assistance from governments, but it emphasized the university would not provide money or issue a bond.
“UMKC will NOT issue nor underwrite the use bonds as a financing source for the arena,” the RFP states. “UMKC will not commit any university capital to the project.”
Instead, UMKC is proposing a financial arrangement in which the university would provide a ground lease to the developer and then lease back the arena for its university-related needs.
The developer could then use the facility for its own purposes, including non-UMKC sports and entertainment uses, during available times. A shared operating agreement between UMKC and the developer will govern use of the facility, according to UMKC
“When athletics is not practicing or playing home games, the facility will be available to host other events,” the RFP states. “UMKC is open to partnerships with entertainment or athletic operating entities that can attract and host events.”
There already has been significant development in anticipation of the planned 51st and Brookside streetcar stop. VanTrust Real Estate opened Brookside 51, a 170-unit apartment project and Whole Foods grocery store, at 51st and Oak in 2018.
The streetcar extension on Main Street between Union Station and UMKC is scheduled to begin operation in early 2025.
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