Kansas City, Mo.
What if they built a sports arena and nobody played in it?
Kansas City stares at the answer to that question every day when it gazes upon the $276 million
. Built as a replacement to the 1974-vintage Kemper Arena, the Sprint Center lacks two essential items that aging facility once had: a National Hockey League team (the Kansas City Scouts called it home from 1974 to 1976) and a National Basketball League Team (Kemper hosted the Kings from 1974 to 1985 before they moved to Sacramento).
Sure, the Sprint Center's seen some Arena League action, a few big concerts, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament's regional rounds in 2009 and the Big 12 Conference's Men's Basketball Tournament in 2008, 2009 and last year. But none of those events bring the hundreds of booked dates and millions in gate and parking revenue a home team does. The glass exterior's nice and the huge LED screen inside is lovely, but it's all one really expensive bridesmaid's dress.
That's exactly what the Sprint Center has been where the major indoor sports leagues have been concerned: a kind of hot bridesmaid overlooked for the lovely bride beside her. The city and facility wooed the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007, but only succeeded in getting that team a new arena in Pittsburgh just in time for a Stanley Cup run. There was a brief flirtation with the NHL's Nashville Predators in 2008, but it turns out Predators investors really like Tennessee. The New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings played a preseason game there in 2009, but even the Islanders' miserable arena situation in Uniondale couldn't pry them away. The NBA's L.A. Clippers, New Orleans Hornets and even the prodigal Sacramento Kings all tease, but Blake Griffin, Seattle investors and stubborn league ownership all leave Kansas City with compliments but no franchise to call its own.
A hotel room and car rental tax paid for its construction, but hasn't given visitors anything else to visit. The
Anschutz Entertainment Group
partnered with the city to build the place, but hasn't done much but cover operating losses since the building opened. Admittedly, it's pretty. We're sure it would look just as pretty packed on game day, though.