• Beyond the Borders: Kansas City Welcomes Meetings of All Sizes

     
    POSTED October 19, 2015
     

Nestled in the heart of America is one of the meeting industry’s most affordable gems: Kansas City, Missouri. This diverse, metropolitan city spanning the Kansas-Missouri border is less than a day’s drive from 55 million Americans, and Kansas City International Airport is just a three-hour flight away from each coast. Pair this convenient location with all-around affordability and a downtown revitalization, and Kansas City quickly becomes a must-book destination.

Conveniently close to downtown is Crown Center, an 85-acre complex that became one of America’s first mixed-use redevelopments. Crown Center was envisioned by Hallmark Cards founder Joyce C. Hall and his son, Donald J. Hall, and is home to Hallmark’s international headquarters. In addition to 2.2 million square feet of office space in a series of interconnected buildings, Crown Center features The Shops at Crown Center, which is a two-level indoor space with restaurants, attractions and retailers.

Crown Center is flanked by two popular hotels that, combined, offer 1,454 guest rooms and 150,000 square feet of meeting space. Pulling off the perfect meeting is made easier than ever, thanks to the complex’s dedicated meeting specialists and both hotels’ ability to use the same contract and reservation system.

The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center has 724 guest rooms and suites with 53,873 square feet of meeting space, including 31 flexible meeting rooms. The Westin’s Century Ballroom is a 15,590-square-foot space with 18-foot ceilings, hand-cut European crystal chandeliers, accent lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow natural light to cascade into the room. The Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center (previously the Hyatt Regency Crown Center) is a 40-story hotel with 730 guest rooms and suites that recently underwent a $22 million renovation. It’s also home to Crown Center Exhibition Hall, with 52,000 square feet of meeting space.

Both hotels are connected by the Link, an elevated pedestrian walkway that allows attendees to walk between hotels without ever going outside, says Brian Morris, director of sales and marketing for the Sheraton/Westin Kansas City at Crown Center. The Link also connects to several area attractions, including Union Station and the Shops at Crown Center.

“I’ve never seen a complex as unique as ours. It lends itself to everything,” says Morris, a hospitality industry veteran.

The Westin/Sheraton complex is just blocks from the Kansas City Convention Center, which boasts 388,800 square feet of columnfree exhibit space on a single floor, and another 62,000 square feet of space on two additional levels. The KCCC offers one of America’s largest green ballrooms, known as the Grand Ballroom. The 46,484-square-foot ballroom is certified LEED Silver and boasts energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems. Planners also have a choice of more than 45 meeting rooms, and an outdoor plaza and sculpture garden that can accommodate up to 2,000 attendees.

Hotel rates, food costs and admission prices in Kansas City are among the lowest averages in the nation, and many of the city’s most popular attractions are free. Be sure to check out the stunning interior of Union Station, a train depot that opened in 1914 and funneled the vast majority of World War I and World War II troops to their far-flung destinations. Today, Union Station functions as an Amtrak passenger train stop, and is home to restaurants, bars, traveling exhibits and Science City at Union Station, a hands-on exhibit for people of all ages.

By October, a 2-mile KC Downtown Streetcar route will seamlessly connect the Westin/Sheraton complex and nearby attractions to the Kansas City Convention Center. And in 2018, an 800-room Hyatt convention hotel will take shape downtown. Located across from the Kansas City Convention Center, the hotel is expected to have 75,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as an outdoor event space of about 9,000 square feet. The hotel also will have more than 15,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, bar and lounge areas.

Most often thought of as a leisure travel destination, Frankenmuth—with its distinctive German flair—is also one of the state’s top locales for corporate events. Dubbed “Little Bavaria” in the early 1950s, this town is rich with tradition, culture, family heritage and plenty of unique spaces and activities for groups of all sizes.

 

Seven years ago, I moved to The Woodlands from out of state to be closer to family. What I was hoping to find was a familial connection that had been missing ever since I moved away from Indiana, where I was born and raised. What I found, however, was so much more: An eclectic, diverse and welcoming community that I am so proud to call home. I also found a wonderful destination for meetings and events.

 

With mostly family-owned shops and restaurants, 26 miles of sandy beaches, and more than double the miles in bike trails, Muskegon sounds like it could be a city on the West Coast. But combine it with snowy winters and a small-town feel, and Muskegon is a Midwestern city full of character. While the city provides plenty of recreational things to do, meetings and events don’t lack in luster. Opening in spring 2021, a new convention center is just one highlight for planners looking to book in Western Michigan, among plenty of other exciting venues to explore.