Destination Kansas City

A Logical Destination

If you haven’t visited Kansas City in the past 10 years, you might not recognize it. Consider the sights our new visitor would see:

- Four ever-expanding casino and hotel complexes, (five, if you travel northward to St. Joseph)

- A renovated Union Station anchoring an eclectic neighborhood called the Freighthouse and Crossroads Districts, chockfull of art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and small businesses

- The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the historic 18th and Vine District, which is also home to the American Jazz Museum, the 500-seat Gem Theater and the Blue Room, a cozy jazz club

- The new, world-class Sprint Center sports arena in Downtown Kansas City, hosting the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame

- The $836 million Power & Light District, featuring restaurants, entertainment, shopping, offices and residential space, as well as the new world headquarters for H&R Block

- A $200 million, 165,000 square-foot expansion of the world-renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art designed by the legendary architect Steven Holl

- Village West, a mind-bogglingly huge development with the Kansas Speedway, Cabela’s, Great Wolf Lodge, the Nebraska Furniture Mart and the 750,000 square-foot entertainment and shopping area called The Legends

We haven’t even mentioned the $135 million expansion of the Kansas City Convention Center, which adds a 46,450 square-foot grand ballroom, one of the largest in the nation. The facility spans I-70 and is crowned by some of the most noticeable, remarked-upon and memorable artwork in the United States.

All told, the Downtown KC area is enjoying more than $4 billion renaissance. The tally more than doubles to $7 billion when improvements across the entire metro Kansas City are totaled.

Those developments include Village West, a mind-bogglingly huge area located just west of the city along I-70. Village West is nearly a city within a city, with the Kansas Speedway, the T-Bones minor league baseball stadium, Cabela’s Great Wolf Lodge, the Nebraska Furniture Mart and the 750,000 square-foot entertainment and shopping area called The Legends.  Among other diversions, The Legends has more than 70 shops and restaurants, including the first T-Rex in the nation, a destination restaurant where animatronic dinosaurs come to life among geysers, waterfalls and ice caves.

To the north, Zona Rosa dominates the shopping, entertainment and retail scene, billing itself as an “urban town center.” The outdoor center has resurrected several local traditions, including the Kansas City Easter Parade and hanging huge lighted crowns along the streets during the Christmas season, which was a KC custom Downtown during the 1950s.

So far, we’ve only discussed what’s new and different. Of course, the city is proud to be home to the 10,000 seat Municipal Auditorium, the art deco gem and 5,000 seat Music Hall (newly spruced up after a $13.4 million renovation), the acoustically perfect Folly Theater and the Lyric Opera. Kansas City is also building a $326 million jewel of a Performing Arts Center right in the heart of Downtown, designed by Moshe Safdie.

The Crown Center Complex, with the city’s second and third largest hotels, links to Union Station and offers abundant meeting space, shops, restaurants, live theater and an ice skating rink in an architecturally innovative environment.

And of course, there’s one of the most vibrant, gorgeous urban areas in the nation: the Country Club Plaza. With its distinctive Spanish architecture, unique shops, excellent restaurants, upscale hotels, charming parks and such traditions as the Plaza Art Fair and the Plaza Lighting Ceremony, the 80-year-old district is the signature center of the city. Even the Plaza, however, is undergoing a building boom with the $100 million West Edge complex, which will be home to B-R Advertising, the Advertising Icon Museum and the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame.

The Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs remain as popular as ever, with the major league soccer team the Kansas City Wizards and the world team tennis Kansas City Explorers offering alternative sporting action. The Kansas City T-Bones minor league baseball team and the Kansas City Brigade arena football team, although relatively new, are becoming fan favorites as well.

Finally, the Kansas City International Airport, featuring many millions in upgrades, is a quick, easy way for our new visitor to come into our city. Or, quite reluctantly, to leave.