OPEN­ING SOON: A NEW CON­VEN­TION CEN­TER HO­TEL

The Kansas City Star - - Front Page - BY AL­LI­SON KITE [email protected]­star.com Al­li­son Kite: 816-234-4088, @Al­lie_Kite

James Bai­ley with J.E. Dunn Con­struc­tion mopped the bar area in the lobby of the new Loews Kansas City Con­ven­tion Cen­ter Ho­tel, which is in the fi­nal stages of con­struc­tion. The ho­tel will open at 1515 Wyan­dotte St. on April 2 with 800 guest rooms, restau­rants, a cof­fee shop, and 65,000 square feet of event space.

A long-promised new chap­ter in Kansas City’s tourism in­dus­try be­gins in just weeks with the open­ing of a new flag­ship con­ven­tion ho­tel planted squarely in down­town.

On Wed­nes­day dur­ing a sneak peak of the grand ho­tel at 1515 Wyan­dotte St., crews were sweep­ing floors, hang­ing art­work and putting the fin­ish­ing touches on the airy lobby of the new Loews Kansas City Con­ven­tion Cen­ter Ho­tel. Tall ceil­ings, mod­ern chan­de­liers, a high­end bar and con­trast­ing light and dark fin­ishes gave the new ho­tel a con­tem­po­rary feel.

The 24-story ho­tel, which opens April 2, was con­ceived by city lead­ers who have fought for years to bring more tourism busi­ness to town. The city gave de­vel­op­ers hefty sub­si­dies, in­clud­ing tax­in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing, or TIF; a com­mu­nity im­prove­ment dis­trict; and funds from the city’s con­ven­tion and tourism sales tax. Brian John­son, who will man­age the ho­tel for Loews, said it has al­ready booked groups through 2026 and guests booked for a volleyball tour­na­ment will fill 450 of the ho­tel’s 800 rooms on night one.

When crews broke ground two years ago, they es­ti­mated a May com­ple­tion date. The April open­ing beats that ex­pec­ta­tion but falls just short of open­ing in time for March’s Big 12 bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment at the Sprint Cen­ter.

Aside from the eco­nomic im­pact — an es­ti­mated 450 per­ma­nent jobs and res­tau­rant spend­ing — John­son said the ho­tel would ben­e­fit the city as a spot for lo­cals to have a cock­tail or cup of cof­fee with­out hav­ing to book a room.

“It’s some­thing for ev­ery­body to be proud of,” John­son said, “and again, when we look at the longterm growth strat­egy for Kansas City, it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant that we have in­fra­struc­ture such as this ho­tel that’s ready to wel­come peo­ple in and re­ally put our best foot for­ward.”

In ad­di­tion to the sub­stan­tial tax in­cen­tives of­fered in the orig­i­nal deal, Kansas City in its upcoming bud­get plans to spend an­other $4.4 mil­lion for ca­ter­ing and man­age­ment con­tracts at the ho­tel. Though the con­tracts were agreed to years ago, the city had to kick in funds to make up for fall­ing ho­tel-mo­tel sales tax rev­enue that should have cov­ered those costs.

Guests in the bar will be able to see panoramic views of Kansas City, from Bar­tle Hall on the west across down­town and the north­ern edge of the Cross­roads Arts Dis­trict.

Loews Kansas City was built to com­ple­ment the con­ven­tion cen­ter, Bar­tle Hall, but it boasts 65,000 square feet of meet­ing space on its own, in­clud­ing the city’s largest ho­tel ball­room. At 27,000 square feet, John­son said the room would com­fort­ably seat a crowd of about 2,000 with food and bev­er­age ser­vice.

In the com­ing weeks, he said, crews will go through what’s known as the “punch list,” in­spect­ing fa­cil­i­ties and fin­ishes to make sure ev­ery­thing is in top shape for the first guests.

So far, ho­tel man­agers have brought on about 100 em­ploy­ees, and John­son said they hired an­other 240 last week. By the time the ho­tel opens, he said, they’ll add an­other 100.

Those em­ploy­ees will go through ori­en­ta­tion, de­part­men­tal train­ing and even­tu­ally run sim­u­la­tions for friends and fam­ily mem­bers of staff be­fore the ho­tel opens to the pub­lic.

A few weeks be­fore the ho­tel opens, John­son said, they’ll per­form what’s known as the “grand flush,” the act of test­ing all the run­ning wa­ter in the ho­tel at once to make sure the tem­per­a­ture and wa­ter pres­sure can keep up with the de­mands of hun­dreds of guests.

Through­out the ho­tel, there are touches of Kansas City. Car­pet pat­terns in the rooms are de­signed to look like flight paths, and other avi­a­tion-re­lated decor helps honor the city’s his­tory as the head­quar­ters for Trans World Air­lines, or TWA.

Meet­ing spa­ces through­out the ho­tel are named for Kansas City foun­tains, and the grand City Beau­ti­ful Ball­room cel­e­brates the move­ment to beau­tify Kansas City at the turn of the 20th cen­tury that re­sulted in nu­mer­ous city parks and boule­vards.

Ac­cord­ing to VisitKC, Kansas City hosted 344 con­ven­tions last year, up from 290 in 2018. The or­ga­ni­za­tion at­tributes five con­ven­tions booked from now through 2023 to the Loews ho­tel. All told, guests at­tend­ing those con­ven­tions are ex­pected to book nearly 76,800 room nights.

TAMMY LJUNGBLAD tljung­[email protected]­star.com

TAMMY LJUNGBLAD tljung­[email protected]­star.com

Work­ers hus­tled Wed­nes­day as they passed through the new Loews Kansas City Ho­tel’s 300-seat res­tau­rant.

TAMMY LJUNGBLAD tljung­[email protected]­star.com

The new Loews Kansas City Ho­tel, look­ing down into the lobby from a level filled with event rooms and the largest ho­tel ball­room in the city, opens April 2.

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