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National Register of Historic Places Program

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

Property Name Kemper Arena
Reference Number 14000160
State Missouri
County Jackson
Town Kansas City
Street Address 1800 Genessee Street
Multiple Property Submission Name N/A
Status Listed 9/9/2016
Areas of Significance ENTERTAINMENT/RECREATION
Link to full file http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/14000160.pdf
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The R. Crosby Kemper, Sr. Memorial Arena (Kemper Arena) at 1800 Genessee Street in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri is locally significant under National Register Criterion A for the area of ENTERTAINMENT/RECREATION. It also meets the requirements of Criteria Consideration G for buildings that are less than fifty years old. It is an exceptional local example of the enclosed multipurpose entertainment arena, a property type that evolved in the mid-twentieth century to include functional elements of a traditional auditorium, a music venue, and a sports facility. The City of Kansas City, Missouri developed Kemper Arena to provide a modern, year-round venue for athletic and performance events. At the time of its construction, the multipurpose arena was considered a requisite civic resource for a thriving city. Comparable local entertainment venues extant or planned when Kemper Arena was under construction were either much smaller (Municipal Auditorium), appropriate for only a limited range of events (various downtown theaters and the Bartle Hall convention center), or open to the elements (Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums). Kemper Arena provided a multipurpose location for a wide array of entertainment experiences that was unique in size, facilities, and amenities to the Kansas City region. Over the next forty years, the variety and importance of events hosted by Kemper Arena created an inexorable connection to nearly every resident of the Kansas City metropolitan area as well as to many from a much broader region, the boundaries of which were defined by arenas of comparable size and draw located in Omaha, Denver, Oklahoma City, and St. Louis. The venue played a critical role in the community's collective experience during the period of significance, which begins in 1974 with the opening of Kemper Arena and ends in 1996. As Kemper Arena entered a period of decline in the mid-1990s, the venue hosted fewer A-list performers and events and struggled to retain longstanding stalwart users and regional attractions, such as the Big 12 Basketball tournament. A 1996 renovation, added seating to the upper level of the arena bowl, widened the east concourse, and added the entrance on the extended east facade in an effort to extend the economic life of Kemper Arena. These changes supported the historic function of Kemper Arena and did not alter the physical or functional qualities for which it is nominated and significant, but ultimately, the alterations were not successful in staving off economic obsolescence. Kemper Arena remained the city's most important enclosed sports and entertainment venue for another decade, until its role was supplanted by the opening of the Sprint Center in 2007. Replacement of Kemper Arena reflected a shift in arena economics, rather than functionality, that led to the demolition of many venues of similar vintage across the country. The nationwide loss of mid-twentieth century multipurpose arenas enhances the rarity and significance of Kemper as an example of its property type.

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Properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places under four criteria: A, B, C, and D. For information on what these criterion are and how they are applied, please see our Bulletin on How to Apply the National Register Criteria