Downtown arena set to receive a much-needed upgrade

May 18—More improvements are on the way to St. Joseph's Civic Arena as officials continue efforts to bring bigger athletic and entertainment events to the city.

Restroom upgrades are next on the agenda for the facility. Brett Esley, executive director of the St. Joseph, MO sports commission, said the improvements have been beneficial to his efforts to market the city as a destination for events like the Division II women's Elite Eight.

"Some of the projects are fun and sexy to talk about and some of them aren't," Esley said. "Bathroom renovations are not the most high-profile piece of that venue but much needed."

The restroom improvements come after a series of upgrades at the arena including new seating, flooring, lighting and scoreboards. Esley said he is grateful for the city's support.

"It's great that our city leadership again sees the value of that building and understanding what that building needs moving forward," Esley said. "Not only to house the existing events but to also attract events for the future."

Some of those plans consist of the MIAA volleyball championship and basketball events at the Division I and II levels.

Being able to compete to host big events at Civic Arena has been a process. Chuck Kempf, director of parks, recreation and civic facilities, said the foundation was set with the first few upgrades to the arena.

"We had been trying to work on the first improvements with the seating and scoreboard, things like that were pretty critical," Kempf said. "Letting everybody know we were serious."

The facility has shown it's worth the investment, he said.

"We've spent close to $3 million on upgrades to the Civic Arena," Kempf said. "We continue to get some funding right now where we have some ARPA funding that we're trying to complete spending."

Many of the upgrades, including painting of the arena, have been possible thanks to money that was not available a few years ago.

"The ARPA funding has been kind of a little bit of a surprise blessing to get that fund," Kempf said. "It's not something five years ago we thought we were going to have this kind of money to spend on the Civic arena or any of our facilities."