Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 4, 1979

Much to my surprise, there was nary a mention of this in (what's left of) The Kansas City Star today, but it was 30 years ago tonight that the Kemper Arena roof collapsed during a violent thunderstorm in K.C.'s West Bottoms area.  This photo was taken the next afternoon, and it was later determined that heavy rainfall and a poorly-designed drainage system led to the roof's catastrophic failure.  Thankfully, it all happened on a Monday night when the building was vacant instead of 24 hours earlier when it was full of people (for a concert, as I recall)—the carnage would've made the 1981 Hyatt Skywalks tragedy pale in comparison.

The next nine months were a surreal period in K.C. sports, while Kemper was closed down for repairs.  The NBA's Kansas City Kings were forced to temporarily relocate back to their former home, Municipal Auditorium downtown, and no one knew it at the time, but the Kemper calamity also triggered the absence of professional hockey in K.C. for over a decade.  Since the Auditorium wasn't a viable option with no permanent ice surface, the minor league Kansas City Red Wings of the old Central Hockey League had no place to play, thus they left town and never returned.  We wouldn't see pro hockey here again until the advent of the International Hockey League's K.C. Blades in 1990.  By extension, I also wound up attending my first-ever Kiss concert at the "Aud" instead of Kemper on the Dynasty tour in September.

Kemper Arena re-opened on February 20, 1980 with a Kings game vs. the Seattle SuperSonics (I was there!) and I believe it was either Z.Z. Top or Rush who played the first concert under the new roof a few days later.  I attended my first Kemper concert a couple months later, which was also my first Who concert—not a bad way to start.  The new roof has lasted five times longer than the first one did, and what's the bet when they implode Kemper Arena in the not-so-distant future, the roof will be the LAST thing to fall this time!

If you're interested, here's my original blog tribute to our beloved "Dump With A Hump."


AeroSquid said...

i think it was Bad Company that played the night before the collapse.

Brian Holland said...

That sounds correct--thanks!