- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Two competing plans for the future of Kansas City’s Kemper Arena place a big emphasis on the burgeoning youth sports industry, but significant funding questions for both remain unanswered.

Foutch Brothers, headquartered on Kansas City’s north side, has a $22 million plan to acquire Kemper Arena from the city and repurpose it for youth basketball, volleyball and other athletics, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/10U5ukK ) reported.

A consultant’s report this week concluded their plan has merits and taps into a “sizable and growing youth sports industry.”

Just last weekend Lawrence, Kansas, opened a $22 million sports pavilion with space for youth basketball, volleyball and other events, plus outdoor tennis and trails. Independence, Missouri, has been home to a successful sports lodge catering to youth athletes with indoor soccer, basketball, volleyball and flag football since 2008.

The American Royal has a plan that would demolish Kemper Arena and replace it with a custom-designed $50 million multipurpose building that it said could be filled with even more youth sports offerings in partnership with Sporting Kansas City’s investor group.

American Royal leaders sent a letter to City Council members this week, signed by 75 influential business supporters, urging them to stop messing around with Foutch and vote for the American Royal and Sporting Kansas City.

“The result would be a modern event space to jump-start economic development and neighborhood revitalization in Kansas City’s West Bottoms,” the letter said.

The City Council is researching both options, comparing costs and trying to figure out what the city can afford to do before making a final recommendation later this month.

In a recent article Bob Cook, who blogs and writes about youth sports for Forbes, cited estimates that 53 million players nationally use such facilities, spending $7 billion annually.

“The theory is that there’s big money to be made in creating these facilities,” he said.

Cook cautioned that Kansas City needs to carefully study both proposals for the Kemper property and decide which is more financially viable.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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