Lusting for the new and shiny, government entities across the U.S. have demolished or mothballed sports stadiums and arenas with outstanding debts.
The New York Times recently described the phenomenon, focusing on the $110 million debt that New Jersey owes for a football stadium that's now a parking lot. The story mentioned Kansas City without identifying our albatross: Kemper Arena.
The city owes $11.9 million on the arena, which is seldom used. The next scheduled event at Kemper is a two-day bull riding competition in October.
The debt stems from renovation of Kemper Arena and Municipal Auditorium the city undertook in the mid 1990s. Public officials took out the loan in order to keep Kemper viable as a site for the Big 12 basketball tournament.
But the building, which was built in 1974, could hide its age for so long. In 2003, the Big 12 took the hoops tournament to Dallas, which opened a new arena in 2001 that made Kemper look like an airplane hanger with seats and a scoreboard. So former Mayor Kay Barnes came up with a plan to build the Sprint Center.
Kemper Arena's debt won't be paid off until 2016, which is about the time the operators at the Sprint Center will begin talking about retouches to that facility that need to be made.