Inside Kansas City’s $9 Billion Investment

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Kansas City, meeting planning
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City

On the heels of $9 billion worth of reinvestment, Kansas City has a new story to tell. Its sheer variety of visual and performing arts institutions have gained national notoriety. In fact, the Bloch Building addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was named by Time magazine as the “best new architectural marvel in the world.” There’s also the Kemper Museum, the Kansas City Art Institute and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art—something to suit every art-lover’s taste.

Where vacant warehouses once stood, dozens of independently owned galleries, retailers and design studios have created an emerging arts community known as the Crossroads Arts District, centered around 19th Street and Baltimore. And on the performing arts side, the majestic Moshe Safdie–designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts has become the city’s architectural icon, while hosting everything from ballet to opera. Many cultural venues are also available for group events—from the historic Folly Theater downtown to the open-air Starlight Theater to the fabulous Art Deco Music Hall.

New Downtown Streetcar

Opening in May, a free downtown streetcar will quickly connect groups to some of KC’s most popular districts. For starters, says Derek Klaus of the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, they can travel north to the River Market neighborhood and do a restaurant crawl of Kansas City’s most popular cuisines, such as noodles at Columbus Park or Chicken Spiedini at Garrozzo’s. Or groups could head south to Crown Center for ice-skating, the Hallmark Visitor Center and the new SEA LIFE Aquarium.

A city of 2 million people, Kansas City is made up of many diverse neighborhoods, and one not to be missed by attendees is Westport. One of KC’s oldest neighborhoods—having welcoming pioneers passing through on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails—it’s now home to local eateries, fashionable boutiques and sizzling night-spots. Kansas City’s rich history can be explored at a variety of attractions. The National World War I Museum can host groups ranging from 30 to thousands. The Memorial Observation Deck—an ideal spot for outdoor receptions or dinners—is situated at the bottom of the Liberty Memorial Tower overlooking the downtown skyline.

The American Jazz Museum tells the story of Kansas City’s jazz heyday during Prohibition and its spread across America. A section of the museum, The Blue Room, is a part of the exhibit by day and an upbeat jazz club by night, with live performances by local jazz veterans. Among several event spaces available at the museum is the 500-seat Gem Theater, which opened in 1912.

A beautiful outdoors venue is Lewis & Clark Historic Park at Kaw Point, which is the place where the Kansas and Missouri rivers meet. The 10-acre park features a natural rock amphitheater for events, seating up to 500 people on limestone seats carved with the names of each of the 51 crew members, including Seaman, Lewis’ Newfoundlound dog.

On the hotel scene, a convention hotel is coming to downtown Kansas City near the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The $300 million property will have 800 rooms and is expected to open in 2018. The Kansas City Convention Center has more than 800,000 sf of meeting space under one roof, and is connected to major downtown hotels and parking by skywalks and underground walkways.

“I think most people would be surprised by the depth and wide range of culture here,” says Klaus. “And with this massive reinvestment, Kansas City certainly has a new story to tell. It’s definitely worth a second look.”

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.