Just as its status as a national and international center of commerce has grown,
Greater Kansas City’s role as a center for culture and entertainment is gaining importance.
Entertainment and Culture
The most obvious example of this is the new downtown Kansas City Power and Light entertainment district. Combined with the adjacent Sprint Center arena and expanded Bartle Hall convention center, the Power and Light District represents a sea change for the entire region.
The size of the new area is the first hint at this impact. Comprised of nine square blocks, the $850 million entertainment district includes upscale restaurants with outdoor seating, creative landscaping and a permanent performance stage. After dark, high-tech light displays will add to the atmosphere. When fully opened later in 2008, the Power and Light District will total approximately 450,000 square feet of retail and entertainment.
A vibrant lifestyle district Downtown | Downtown
Kansas City has enjoyed more than $5 billion in
investment in the last five years including the construction of the Sprint Center and Kansas City Live!
What may be most dramatic is that the district is only part of downtown’s burgeoning enter-tainment scene. The $250 million Sprint Center opened in late 2007 with several extraordinarily successful inaugural events. Nearby, the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts Center is under construction. The $300 million signature landmark will dominate a commanding skyline south of Bartle Hall, which itself now features expanded ballroom and convention facilities.
Not everything in greater Kansas City arts scene is new, though even long-time hall-marks have made recent additions. The internationally respected Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art just completed a 165,000-square-foot expansion designed by acclaimed architect Steven Holl. The Nelson, and the nearby Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art are just a stroll away from the beautifully restored Brush Creek Parkway; rapidly becoming a major corporate corridor that extends eastward the fountain and public art themes of the Country Club Plaza to the west.
In the performing arts, Kansas City is home to the
Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra,
Kansas City Chorale, Kansas City Camerata
and the Friends of Chamber Music. Theaters include
the Lyric Opera, Folly Theater, the Kansas City Repertory
Theatre, New Theatre, Yardley Hall at Johnson
County Community College, Unicorn Theatre,
Quality Hill Playhouse, American Heartland Theatre,
Coterie Theatre, and the new Off Center Theatre.
Outsiders are sometimes surprised by the cultural
highlights here, but greater Kansas City has a
rich cultural, arts, and entertainment heritage. The
town is world-famous for its role in pioneering jazz
and blues, and for its commitment to preserving the
legacy of the Negro Leagues of professional baseball.
Museums dedicated to these vitally important
aspects of Kansas City and American culture are located in the 18th & Vine Entertainment District, which is the historical center of African-American culture and commerce in Kansas City.
Kansas City is also proud to be own the title of being the Barbecue Capital of the World. The area boasts more barbecue eating establishments than any other major metropolitan area in the world—more than 120 at last count, and KC is home of the American Royal BBQ—the worlds largest competition.
That’s not the only “most” KC can boast of. Within the city proper, there are more miles of boulevards and more fountains than any city other than Rome, reflecting a philosophy of public art and beautification that took root here after the Civil War.
This attitude is evident throughout the region. Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas, offer an abundance of outstanding arts and cultural activities. Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas, draws much of its cultural energy from that large school but local, grassroots efforts are equally important.
Other examples include William Jewell College, in Liberty, Missouri, and its Harriman-Jewell arts series. Each year, the program brings nationally recognized dance, music and special events to the region. Some of the programs are on the college’s campus, but most are held at larger Kansas City venues that provide more space for the large audiences that turn out to see internationally popular artists.
The University of Central Missouri
in Warrensburg, and Missouri
Western State University in St.
Joseph, among other area universities,
also have active performing
Sometimes the line between fine arts and culture and popular entertainment blurs here in Kansas City. The best example of this being the dynamic Crossroads Arts District in downtown Kansas City. Here private art galleries and other entertainment have sprung up almost overnight. The area’s First Friday events—when galleries stay open late and libations, music, and food are abundant—are extremely popular and in warmer weather and First Friday draws tens of thousands to the area.
Although the region has its share of
shopping center theaters, several arts
and historic movie venues are located
throughout the region. Two of the most
anticipated additions to the downtown
entertainment district are the soon-to-berestored
historic Midland and Empire
Theatres. When they open in mid-2008,
the Midland will feature live entertainment,
while the Empire—renamed the Main Street Theatre—will feature six screens with state-of-the- art digital projection equipment.
Some of the most eclectic entertainment/retail districts are located in the city’s Midtown area, south of downtown. The Country Club Plaza and its neighbor, Westport, a more youth-oriented nightclub district, and the 39th Street “Restaurant Row” offer something for virtually everyone. The Massachusetts Street corridor in Lawrence offers a similar mix of restaurants, clubs, shops and galleries, all within a few city blocks.
Greater Kansas City is also home to a
growing number of casinos, including one
planned near the Legends shopping center
in Wyandotte County. Also near Legends,
the $750 million Schlitterbahn water park
is under construction. It will join the
successful Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun
complex, located in Clay County, as familyfriendly
theme parks/tourist destinations.
Hail to the Chiefs | Arrowhead Stadium is the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. The Truman Sports Complex is also home to Kauffman Stadium and the Kansas City Royals. Both stadiums are undergoing large expansion renovations.
Kansas Citians love their sports and are among the nation’s most intensely loyal fans. Along with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and MLB’s Kansas City Royals, the Major League Soccer team, the Wizards, offer area residents world-class big league sports entertain-ment. NASCAR motor racing has also established a multistate regional following at the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County. Effectively a new major league franchise for the region, the Speedway and the adjacent Legends retail/entertainment center, and minor league baseball team—the T-Bones—have become the most visited destination in the state of Kansas.
Local college teams enjoy especially large followings. In late 2007, the University of Missouri/University of Kansas football game filled to capacity Kansas City’s 80,000-seat Arrowhead stadium. The NCCA Basketball Experience and College Basketball Hall-of- Fame recently opened at Sprint Center which has since become a regional attraction.