Kansas City, No Longer the Understudy

In the past few years, Kansas City has become more of a well-known and popular city, thriving as a desired travel destination. However, for many people, Kansas City is still thought of as a smaller community, a flyover state, one that doesn’t come close to paralleling the sky-scraper buildings and hustle bustle of traditional, large cities in the US. All of that is beginning to change though, as Kansas City embarks on a journey of redevelopment, transformation, and growth, with two large construction endeavors and the pleasure of being host to the 2023 NFL draft.

Kansas City has joined the US airport boom with a planned $1.5 billion renovation. Nearly 15 months after voters overwhelmingly approved the construction of a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, the City Council vote approved the venture on February 28.

MCI is nearly five decades old and falls short of being well-suited to the concept of functionality. The current airport has three separated U-shaped terminals, that are inefficient and even described as “cement igloos” by Patrick Klein, director of aviation at the airport. Along with greater functionality, the new airport in Kansas City will feature design elements that nod to the “City of Fountains” including water features and fountains as the focal point of the terminals. The four-year renovation is the largest public works project in the history of Missouri’s biggest city, and city officials hope the new airport will help “draw corporate headquarters and talent from increasingly expensive coastal cities.” The project has officially started, with terminal one nearly demolished, and is expected to be completed in 2023.

Also underway, is the construction of a 24-story, 800 room hotel attached to the convention center in downtown Kansas City. The Kansas City Convention Center, referred to as the Bartle Hall Convention Center, has been around for just over four decades. The first-class convention center combined with Kansas City’s vibrant downtown has been successful in obtaining some convention business, but the lack of hotel space served as a critical drawback for attracting major conventions.

The Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel is not scheduled to be completed until March 2020, but there is already an event schedule for July 2020 that is expected to draw more than 20,000 participants. Executive vice president of the New York based hotel firm, Alexander Tisch, says the endeavor should “allow Kansas City to compete for up to 200 more events than it previously could by offering the critical mass of downtown hotel rooms.”

The most recent news for the city, and arguably the most exciting for local Kansas City Chief’s fans, is that Kansas City will host the 2023 NFL draft. The Kansas City Sports Commission has been fighting to bring the draft to the city for many years, and were even considered a finalist in previous drafts, but always fell short of the winning bid. All three days of the NFL festival will be held in Kansas City, and officials as well as residents are already praising the future economic impact. The city will benefit extensively from the three days full of activities for the draft, but Kansas City will experience long-term benefits as well. The single weekend festivities should shine a spotlight on the what Kansas City has to offer and promote future visits from tourists or even potential future residents.  

The current and future endeavors in Kansas City are creating opportunities, both for residents and outside groups. With Kansas City’s growth, comes a greater attraction for companies that are looking to expand and have the potential to move or relocate to Kansas City. Corporate growth is paralleled by the creation of job opportunities – beneficial for current and future residents of Kansas City.

The airport project seems to have created a catalytic effect, with the convention center hotel, the hosting of the 2023 NFL draft, and even the city’s bid to host World Cup matches in 2026. Officials and residents of Kansas City want to take full advantage of the momentum present in the city right now and continue to promote progress that will allow Kansas City to thrive as a top travel destination. As Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City said, “Kansas City is no longer an understudy to anybody.”

Writing Credits: Samantha Heggem

Photo Credits: Derrick Hightower