Kemper Arena is a 19,500 seat indoor arena, in Kansas City, Missouri.
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.
It is the ongoing host of the American Royal livestock show.
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 dollars from general obligation bonds
- $3.2 million dollars donated by R. Crosby Kemper Sr.
- $575,000 dollars from bond interest
- $1.5 million dollars donated by the American Royal Association
- Land provided by the Kansas City Stockyards Company
- $10 million dollars from revenue bonds in conjunction with the Jackson County Sports Authority
- $2 million dollars in federal grants for street work
Glory days in the 1970s
The arena won architectural awards in the 1970s and had four very prominent tenants:
- 1974-1976 - Kansas City Scouts of the NHL
- 1974-1985 - Kansas City Kings of the NBA
- 1976 Republican National Convention (where Gerald Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the nomination)
1979 roof collapse
On June 4, 1979, at 6:45 p.m., a major storm with 70 mph (110 km/h) 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 and thousands of its members were at its annual national conference there less than 24 hours before the 1979 collapse. Further, 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, this collapse 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 70 mph (110 km/h) 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 200 ft (61 m) × 215 ft (66 m) 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:
- NCAA Men's Final Four in 1988
- NCAA Women's Final Four in 1998
- NCAA Regionals - in 1983, 1986, 1992, 1995, and 1996
- NCAA First and Second Rounds - in 1997, 2001, and 2004
- NAIA basketball tournament from 1975 - 1993
- Big Eight Conference Men's Basketball Tournament from 1977 to 1996
- Big 12 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament from 1997–2002 and 2005
- Mid-Continent Conference men’s basketball tournament in 2003 and 2004
Allen Fieldhouse East
Kemper Arena has always had a special and close relationship with the University of Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team. The team traditionally played at least one game a year in Kemper. As there are many Kansas alumni in the Kansas City metro area, and Kansas's usual home venue of Allen Fieldhouse is itself approximately 40 miles (64 km) away, the crowd favors the Jayhawks heavily. As a result, opposing coaches (notably Billy Tubbs, whose team lost the 1988 NCAA championship to Kansas there) have often referred to Kemper as "Allen Fieldhouse East".
The Jayhawks have compiled an 80–24 record at Kemper, including wins in the 1988 national championship game and the 1997, 1998 and 1999 Big 12 championships. With the opening of Sprint Center in 2007, Kansas moved its Kansas City games there. Kansas won its likely final game at Kemper Arena by a score of 68–58 over Toledo on December 9, 2006.
Other professional sports
- 1981–1991 - Kansas City Comets of the original Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL)
- 1992–2005 - Kansas City Attack (later renamed the Kansas City Comets) of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) and current Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL)
- 1990–2001 - Kansas City Blades, International Hockey League (1945–2001) (IHL)
- 2000–2005 - Kansas City Knights of the American Basketball Association (21st century) (ABA)
- 2004–2005 - Kansas City Outlaws of the United Hockey League (UHL)
- 2006–2007 - Kansas City Brigade of the Arena Football League
- 2007 - National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) makes its 4th stop of the 2007 season at Kemper. The event will be the first NPPL event held with a field indoors.
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.
On May 7, 2000 WCW Slamboree 2000 was held at the Kemper Arena. This was two weeks short of one year after Owen Hart fell to his death in the same arena. The event featured a Ready to Rumble Cage match from which a high fall from it could be expected. After the match Chris Kanyon was thrown off the structure and WCW carried on as if he was paralyzed.In 2008 reports from WWE employees had claimed to see Owen Harts ghost in the rafters dressed in his blue blazer gimmick and also claimed to see lights flickering.
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.
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.
- ZZ Top - October 31, 1975, August 13, 1981, with Loverboy, February 16-17, 1986, December 16, 1990 and May 8, 1994
- The Who - December 1, 1975 and April 26, 1980
- Olivia Newton-John - March 3, 1976
- Elvis Presley - April 21, 1976 and June 18, 1977
- Aerosmith - April 28, 1976, June 28, 1978, February 5, 1983 and February 19, 1988
- Wings - May 29, 1976
- KISS - February 9 and November 27, 1977, March 1, 1983, December 26, 1984 and July 3, 1996, with Alice in Chains
- Fleetwood Mac - April 1 and September 16, 1977, August 24, 1980, September 30, 1987 and August 13, 2003
- Pink Floyd - June 21, 1977
- Alice Cooper - July 30, 1977, with The Climax Blues Band and February 19, 1979
- Kansas - November 25, 1977, with Crawler and July 29, 1982
- Rod Stewart - November 29, 1977 and January 30, 1982
- REO Speedwagon - May 12-13, 1978, with Rainbow and No Dice
- Yes - September 27, 1978 and March 12, 1984
- Billy Joel - October 18, 1978, April 17, 1984 and December 7, 1999
- Bob Dylan - November 3, 1978
- Styx - November 21, 1978, with The Babys, March 16-17, 1981, June 21, 2003, with Journey and REO Speedwagon and October 22, 2005, with REO Speedwagon
- Queen - December 8, 1978, September 12, 1980, with Dakota and August 28, 1982, with Billy Squier
- Jethro Tull - April 23, 1979
- Diana Ross - May 12, 1979
- Rush - February 27, 1980, with Roadmaster, April 23-24, 1981, October 16, 1982, with Rory Gallagher, June 16, 1984, with Gary Moore, April 29, 1986, with Blue Öyster Cult, April 7, 1988, with The Rainmakers, May 23, 1992, with Primus and April 5, 1994
- Def Leppard - June 18, 1980, October 12, 1987 and December 19, 1992
- Foghat - July 29, 1980 and October 31, 1981
- Van Halen - August 22, 1980, October 17, 1981, August 7, 1982, June 20–21, 1984, May 30–31, 1986 and July 26, 2004, with Shinedown
- Elton John - October 10, 1980, September 20, 1984, June 4, 1999 and April 12, 2001, with Billy Joel
- The Jacksons - September 8, 1981
- Journey - September 18-19, 1981, with Point Blank and July 12–13, 1983, with Bryan Adams
- The Rolling Stones - December 14–15, 1981 and April 6, 1999
- The Police - March 25, 1982, with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and November 24, 1983
- Scorpions - July 10, 1982, with Iron Maiden
- AC/DC - October 26, 1983, October 4, 1985, August 3, 1986, with Queensrÿche, July 30, 1988, December 7, 1990, April 2, 1996 and September 3, 2000
- Genesis - January 29, 1984 and January 21, 1987
- Ozzy Osbourne - May 4, 1984, with Mötley Crüe
- Tina Turner - October 26, 1984, October 26, 1985, October 17, 1987, June 22, 1993 and May 17, 2000, with Lionel Richie
- Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - November 19, 1984
- Iron Maiden - December 17, 1984, June 18, 1998 and February 27, 1991
- Deep Purple - February 13, 1985, with Giuffria and May 5, 1987, with Bad Company
- Phil Collins - June 15, 1985 and April 12, 1997
- Bryan Adams - July 28, 1985 and May 2, 1992
- Metallica - April 1, 1986, November 28, 1991, with Metal Church, January 31, 1997 and May 11, 2004
- Bon Jovi - February 26, 1987, with Cinderella and April 13, 1989
- Mötley Crüe - July 11, 1987, November 21, 1989, April 3, 1990 and March 15, 2005
- Boston - October 9, 1987
- David Bowie - October 14, 1987
- U2 - October 26, 1987 and November 27, 2001, with Garbage
- Michael Jackson - February 23–24, 1988
- INXS - June 14, 1988
- R.E.M. - March 4, 1989, with Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians
- Janet Jackson - April 11, 1990, August 1, 1998, with Usher and July 14, 2001
- Dire Straits - February 16, 1992
- Eric Clapton - October 28, 1994, April 2, 1998, July 28, 2001 and April 2, 2007, with The Robert Cray Band
- Page & Plant - May 5, 1995 and June 6, 1998
- Garth Brooks - May 2–5, 1996
- Prince & The New Power Generation - January 4, 1998 and May 4, 2004
- The Backstreet Boys - July 31, 1998
- Alanis Morissette - March 15, 1999, with Garbage
- Celine Dion - March 29, 1999
- 'N Sync - April 1, 1999, with B*Witched, Britney Spears and Tatyana Ali and June 22, 2000, with Sisqó and P!nk
- Roger Waters - August 28, 1999
- The Backstreet Boys - November 18, 1999 and August 27, 2001
- Ricky Martin - November 30, 1999
- Korn - April 19, 2000 and July 21, 2002
- Nine Inch Nails - May 28, 2000, with A Perfect Circle and February 18, 2006, with Moving Units and Saul Williams
- Blink-182 - June 30, 2000, with Bad Religion
- The Dixie Chicks - August 4, 2000 and May 10, 2003, with Joan Osborne
- Tim McGraw and Faith Hill - September 24, 2000 and July 18, 2006
- Cher - July 16, 2002 and September 22, 2003
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers - May 5, 2003, with Queens of the Stone Age and The Mars Volta
- Shania Twain - November 29, 2003
- Sarah Brightman - February 15, 2004
- Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson - April 15, 2004
- Green Day - May 14, 2005, with My Chemical Romance
- Hilary Duff - August 11, 2005
- The Trans-Siberian Orchestra - December 22, 2005 and December 26, 2006 (2 shows)
- Tool - September 15, 2006, with Isis
- Nickelback - September 16, 2006, with Hoobastank and Chevelle and September 2, 2007
- High School Musical - January 23, 2007, with Jordan Pruitt
- Christina Aguilera - February 24, 2007, with Danity Kane and The Pussycat Dolls
- Martina McBride - April 12, 2007, with Rodney Atkins and Little Big Town
- T.I. and Ciara - August 12, 2007
- The Foo Fighters - July 19, 2008, with Supergrass and Year Long Disaster
The facilities are managed by AEG. Facilities in the complex include:
- Hale Arena – 5,000 seat capacity (17,000 sq ft.)
- Kemper Arena – 19,500 seat capacity
- The Governor’s Building – 96,000 sq ft (8,900 m2).
- Lower Level Exhibition Hall – 86,000 sq ft (8,000 m2).
- Upper Level Exhibition Hall – 86,000 sq ft (8,000 m2).
- 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
- Bicentennial Sundial and Time Capsule