Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kemper Arena: Too Cool to Live


What else can be said that PucKChaser did not already cover?

In the next two months, we will know the fate of the probably doomed Kemper Arena (spoiler: yeah, it's doomed).  One way or the other, Kemper (or the land once housing Kemper) will become a youth sports/agricultural boondoggle, and the city will be rid of the financial drain the arena has become.  

While its good that something is finally being done to the seldom used building, the maintenance costs will outweigh the cost to repurpose the land and almost guarantee Kemper Arena will not be around much longer.  As it stands, the American Royal and everyone's favorite Harvard-educated blonde down-home football captain Sporting Club want to tear down the building in favor of a redesigned, smaller building that would house agriculture events as well as youth sports.  Sporting Club was not originally part of this proposal, but was added as a partner to this because, well, the American Royal is selfish and wanted the land all to itself without any intention of using a new building for anything other than equestrian events.  Since the city actually wants people to come to this area and spend money, this original plan did not bode well for the AR.

Thankfully, other people had hopes of actually, ya know, bringing people to the West Bottoms.  The alternate plan is the Foutch Brothers proposal to convert the arena into an amateur sports complex that includes a desire to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places.  The arena can still be demolished, despite NRHP distinction.

The issue is not about architecture, so do not let anyone fool you.  Kemper is a one-of-its-kind building, different than the structures of its ilk being built at that time.  Today, it's still noticeable within the Kansas City landscape, and still as much a nod to postmodern architecture and the artsy distinction Kansas Citians love to brag about when talking about their city as it was when it was built.  Kemper's design is synonymous with other KC landmarks like the shuttlecocks and Bartle Hall pylons.  But this is not Corinthian Hall or Union Station, this is Kemper Arena.  An old, dusty arena, without enough architectural significance or real Kansas City "history" to save it.  And, if you remember, Kansas City does not have a problem demolishing one person's view of "architectural beauty" in favor of practical usage.

On the history issue, when people talk about Kemper, it's not about all of those Kings championships (there were none), or memorable Scouts games (there were only 20 wins in two years), it's the arena with one NCAA Tournament championship, Owen Hart, and a damn roof collapse that has haunted the building for most of its existence.  Oh, and that one time David Arquette betrayed Diamond Dallas Page to help Jeff Jarrett win a triple cage match and win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.  That was truly awful.

No, Kemper did everything asked for it, and then some.  Kansas City has only had one NHL team, one NBA team, and one Presidential Convention, all housed in the arena.  But, unlike those old renovated and currently renovating structures around town, Kemper has one purpose – host athletic events and concerts – and some believe it is either too big, too expensive, or too futile to use it in that way.  Personally, I do not want to see Kemper razed, but using the land for nothing is wasteful.  You have a historic stockyards district with the American Royal right next door.  The potential is there for something – obviously not a major concert and sport venue – but for something.

Whatever the Council decides, the arena's future and legacy will mean another area for youth sports in the city, and a practical use for an otherwise unused district.  Unfortunately for the distinctive building, this fate could also bring its demise.

* * * 

One more note: In the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey – home of the New Jersey Devils née Colorado Rockies née Kansas City Scouts – are murals/banners devoted to the organization's past.  One features the two former homes, McNichols Arena in Denver and Kemper Arena.  
photo courtesy: some message board online somewhere, i don't remember where, sue me
That's pretty cool, right?!  Yeah, pretty cool.  Except take a close look at this photo:
Remember when every sporting stadium or arena was a "Memorial"?  Those were weird days.
This is what Kemper Arena looked like for most of its active life, and in 1974-76 when the Scouts played in the arena.  The glass eastern exterior – as seen on the arena today, and in the photo on the mural in New Jersey – was not added until 1997, nearly thirty years after the Scouts left.  So, the New Jersey mural is not entirely accurate.  Also, and this is a bit nit-picky, but the phenomenon of sports fans wearing jerseys of their favorite players was not prevalent in the 1970s, so it's unlikely that anyone would have worn a Wilf Paiement sweater inside Kemper Arena unless their name was indeed Wilf Paiement.

But, hey, thanks for the cool picture thing, New Jersey!

As a thank you, let's all sing along to the state song of New Jersey:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Day With the Cup

So, if you follow my Twitter feed (hint hint), or at the least have stumbled upon this site in any fashion, you know I am a fan of the Los Angeles Kings.  If you have followed hockey at all in the past month, you know the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup, and are the champions of the National Hockey League.  As noted earlier, that's pretty cool, and your favorite team in a sport winning a championship is something everyone should experience.  I'd recommend it.

At the risk of getting weepy to, presumably, Kansas City hockey fans on a Kansas City hockey blog about a team in Los Angeles, seeing the pictures of the Kings parade and rally make me long for a similar parade and rally to attend in my own backyard.  You, oh wise and wistful Kansas City sports fan, will say, "but the Royals had a parade in '85," and, "just wait, the Chiefs/Royals will be holding a rally soon enough!"  And that's all fine and good, especially since any success from these teams would be small payback for years and years of crushing disappointment.  Winning a championship and giving us a reason to celebrate something, anything, is the least they can do.

Friday, June 6, 2014

No NHL for Seattle, No NHL for Kansas City but All the Lies You Can Handle!


A few weeks ago, reports said the NHL was seriously looking into Seattle as a viable option for a new NHL franchise.

How serious were they?!

So serious, it seems, that commissioner/overlord Gary Bettman and Bill Daly brought a possible future owner along with them.

So serious, the NHL wanted Seattle to go ahead with the construction of the arena under the auspices of an NHL franchise being the main tenant.

So serious, umm, the Florida Panther fired a bunch of employees (oh, wait, that's a different story.  More on this later).

Monday, May 5, 2014

AHL to Start Western Division: Kansas City Not "Western" Enough for Once


According to this article from MayorsManor, the American Hockey League (the AAA version of professional hockey) may add a Western Division by 2015.  This is an effort for teams like the Sharks, Ducks, Coyotes, and Kings to move their top affiliates closer to home.  Currently, all four of these team's affiliates are on the East Coast.

"West" does not appear to mean Kansas City, though.  One time zone closer is not quite close enough.

Despite AEG's ownership of the Sprint Center and the Los Angeles Kings, that team appears destined for Ontario, CA, the current home of the Kings ECHL organization. 
The Kansas City Blades were the primary affiliate of the San Jose Sharks from 1991-96 until the NHL pressured their clubs to link up with AHL organizations.  Again, the Sharks appear to want a move closer to home, and not 1,000+ miles away.  Portland, OR and cities in Washington state could be viable options for the Sharks, as well as for the Ducks and Coyotes.  I suppose a fun irony would be if the Coyotes AHL affiliate were to play in Seattle.  Oh, what a wonderful laugh that would be.

This comes on the heels of the announcement that the Flames affiliate in Abbotsford (Western Canada)  – the only team in the Pacific Time Zone – is moving to the East Coast next season.

The reconfiguring of the AHL does not mean the NHL’s Midwest teams will be looking for new homes for their affiliates either.  Those teams are already close, as it is.  Dallas’ affiliate is in Texas; Chicago and St. Louis’s affiliates are in Illinois; Nashville’s affiliate is in Milwaukee; and the Minnesota Wild’s affiliate is in Iowa.  And even though the Columbus Blue Jackets’s affiliate is in Springfield, Massachusetts, Kansas City sports fans may not latch onto the affiliate of another smaller market team.

Why not?

Because, as the top image implies, Kansas City does not see itself as a minor league city anyway.   Kansas City carries a “Minor League Syndrome,” as evidenced by the KC Creative Crossroads campaign and the parody billboard at the top of the post.  More Music (lovers in small, indecipherable type) than Memphis?  More Arts (participation) than New York?  I mean, it’s all marketing and tourism speak, but come on.

An AHL team in the Sprint Center would add an anchor tenant and 40+ dates to the arena (just like a pro hockey or basketball would).  As evidenced before, the Mavericks have one of the higher attendances of any American minor league hockey team.  So, it’s plausible that an AHL team downtown would draw just as many people to games. 

Alas, we are blessed with the Mavericks, and only the Mavericks, for the time being.  And in return, they have been blessed with the Kansas City Curse.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blues vs. Stars - Kansas City's Brief Date with the NHL in 2014



Have you heard the news? It was reported a couple of days ago that the St. Louis Blues will face the Dallas Stars in a pre-season exhibition at the Sprint Center on Sept. 27, 2014.

While the Blues and Stars aren't exactly my cup of tea, I'm thrilled about the NHL making a return to Kansas City. My guess is it won't match the record attendance from the last exhibition game back in 2011, but that's fine by me. There were only a few hundred people, including Flubber and I, at the Kings/Islanders fight on ice skates game in 2009 and it was a great time. Of course now that we know record attendance isn't going to bring an NHL team this way, we can all kind of sit back and wait to be entertained rather than speculating in the coming months whether or not the city will show the league that there is a market here.

Tickets are on sale now using the presale code ICE. Presale ends and normal sale begins Friday (02/14) at 10am. I don't know what the difference is, but there you go. Makes for a great Valentine's Day gift! Right?

Links:

NHL preseason hockey returns to Kansas City — Dallas Stars v. St. Louis Blues September 27

Blues, Stars to play NHL preseason game at the Sprint Center

St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars Face-Off on Sept. 27