Missouri: Colorful Past, Bright Future

Anheuser-Busch Budweiser beer wagon, St. Louis

Sports and entertainment at the heart of the Show Me State

Sometimes we don’t realize what’s right under our noses—literally—as we fly over the state of Missouri. The “Show Me State” has a very colorful history.

After William Clark and Meriwether Louis set foot in the Louisiana Territory in 1804, St. Louis became known as the Gateway to the West. St. Joseph was the eastern terminus of the Pony Express. The mighty Mississippi River on Missouri’s eastern border and the paddle-wheelers plying it in the 1800s are an iconic part of American lore.

Missouri cities, somewhat under the radar, are evolving into centers of innovation and entrepreneurship. This state also manages to cram an abundance of natural wonders, ranging from rivers and lakes to mountains, forests and plains, into its borders.

Manmade wonders are also in abundance here. Missouri boasts American icons such as the Gateway Arch, Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company, legendary St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals, 2015 World Series champions.

Missouri has produced larger-than-life personalities such as singer Josephine Baker, artist Thomas Hart Benton, explorer Daniel Boone, scientist George Washington Carver, frontiersman Kit Carson, explorer William Clark, writer Mark Twain, animator Walt Disney and President Harry Truman.

The state also has sports and entertainment facilities that make memorable meeting sites. In addition, prices here are lower than in many other parts of the country.

Interestingly, both of Missouri’s major cities are immortalized in the Great American Songbook. This is not surprising, as the state of Missouri gives meeting planners a lot to sing about.

Kansas City

jazz-greenladylounge_02-brianpauletteGreen Lady Lounge, Kansas City

Kansas City was established in 1821, when French explorer Francois Chouteau set up a trading post on the Missouri River. The Santa Fe Trail, which helped open up the West, eventually passed just south of his trading post.

The city of Kansas was incorporated in 1853, and renamed Kansas City in 1889. After the Civil War, the railroads came through, and the city became a huge cog in the cattle industry.

neptunefountain-kansas_01Neptune Fountain, Kansas City

Now with a population of 470,000, this city is known for its fountains, barbecue (typically slow-cooked for up to 18 hours and served at more than 100 restaurants) and jazz, played at more than 40 nightclubs.

Kansas City also owns a little-known but unique piece of sports history. Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960 and owner of the Kansas City Chiefs franchise, coined the term Super Bowl.

After the mid-1960s merger of the AFL with the National Football League, team owners met to figure out a name for their new championship game. While absentmindedly thinking about a bouncy super ball his children loved to play with, Hunt suddenly blurted out “super bowl.” And the rest, as they say, is history—including the fact that his Kansas City Chiefs went on to win Super Bowl IV.

“We’ve always been known for our central location and our affordability,” says Ronnie Burt, president and CEO of Visit KC. “And now we’ve been recognized by Travel & Leisure as one of the Top 10 Cities for Sports Fans. The Kansas City metro’s meeting places include award-winning stadiums and modern, multifunctional arenas and entertainment venues. And almost all have state-of-the-art meeting capabilities.”

Meeting Venues

Sprint Center, an 18,500-seat arena, was the eighth-busiest in America last year. In addition to a parade of international sporting events, the arena holds the College Basketball Experience attraction. It boasts 72 hospitality suites, several meeting rooms and banquet space for 1,000.

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Kauffman Stadium is home to the Kansas City Royals. It’s a beautiful ballpark that underwent a $250 million restoration prior to the 2009 season that included an expansion of the concourse and more concession stands, restrooms, ticket windows, suites and dining/lounge options. Kauffman stages corporate events for up to 2,000 people in spaces such as Kia Diamond Club, which features floor-to-ceiling retractable windows, Bats Crown Club and Royals Hall of Fame, perfect for interactive events.

Adjacent to Kauffman Stadium is Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Renovations in 2010 added more than 500,000 sq. ft. to this 79,451-seat facility. Up to 1,200 attendees can utilize spaces such as Tower Club, North Club and Foolish Club, along with numerous meeting rooms.

Located in nearby Independence, Silverstein Eye Centers Arena is a state-of-the-art, multipurpose facility with 5,800 seats, 25 suites for meetings and a restaurant. The venue hosts more than 100 events and 500,000 attendees annually, from hockey and soccer to concerts, trade shows and corporate functions.

Kansas City is adding to its hotel inventory, as well. A new Hyatt hotel across from Kansas City Convention Center is coming in 2019, with 800 guest rooms and 75,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, along with retail, restaurant/bar components and a fitness facility. Construction on the property is scheduled to begin late this year.

gatesbbq_05Gates Bar-B-Q, Kansas City

“Kansas City is very walkable, and our people loved the entertainment and dining options in the Power & Light District,” says Carrie Rawn, executive director of programs for The Institute For Public Procurement, based in Herndon, Virginia. Rawn brought 1,015 attendees and exhibitors to the city in 2015 for the annual Forum & Products Exposition.

“We enjoyed real Kansas City barbecue at a social event at the Midland Theater, which was a great venue. Kansas City hotels are great, and the CVB was a pleasure to work with,” Rawn says.

St. Louis

blues-museum-photobybillmotchan-4National Blues Museum, St. Louis (photo by Bill Motchan)

The perception of St. Louis is somewhat different than the reality. Some may believe that it is staid. But St. Louis is reinventing itself with new attractions, emerging neighborhoods, business start-ups and a re-emphasis on its colorful roots.

In 1764, two French fur traders founded a settlement near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, naming it after King Louis IX of France. The two rivers made it the perfect spot from which to trade with Native American tribes in the West.

When President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis Meriwether and William Clark from St. Louis to chart the new Louisiana Territory in 1804, the city was already home to 1,000 people. It was the center of fur trade in America and the last stop for explorers and trappers heading west.

st-louisView of The Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse, St. Louis

The Gateway Arch opened in 1965, overlooking the Mississippi, to commemorate Jefferson’s vision of a continental United States. It sits on a National Park Service site, along with Museum of Westward Expansion and the historic Old Courthouse. America’s tallest man-made monument, it offers 30-mile panoramas.

This is where the new St. Louis is rising, with a $380 million project called CityArchRiver. When the project is completed next year, a new park will connect the arch to the central business district. The Old Courthouse will be renovated, and Museum of Westward Expansion will be expanded. There will also be new event spaces for groups.

Meeting Venues

ball-park-321Budweiser Brew House rooftop deck at Saint Louis Ballpark Village

St. Louis abounds in great offsites. The city’s newest cultural jewel, National Blues Museum, opened in April. The museum brings alive the blues as the foundation of American music, and meeting spaces include a gallery that holds 150 and a room with a stage that holds 70.

Saint Louis Ballpark Village, opened in 2014, is a world-class sports, dining and entertainment district downtown. It accommodates groups of up to 5,000, and is within walking distance of the Convention Center and five hotels. Anchored in the rich tradition of Cardinals’ baseball and Anheuser-Busch, Ballpark Village offers entertainment-production services, five stages, Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, an interactive beer tap wall, and the Bud Deck and AT&T Rooftop Stadium experiences.

Then there’s Busch Stadium, home of baseball’s legendary St. Louis Cardinals. This team has won 11 World Series, and it has featured superstar players such as Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson and Albert Pujols. Planners can buy out Budweiser Bowtie Bar and the Cardinals clubhouse, and can arrange events such as Brunch in the Bullpen and Fantasy Batting Practice.

City Museum is a giant playground for kids of all ages, made completely of repurposed items. Once the home of International Shoe Company, today it hosts experiential gatherings in spaces like the Architectural Hall and Vault Room, featuring salvaged architectural and historical pieces; the first floor and mezzanine, in which 100 attendees can gather amid mosaics of sea creatures and a huge aquarium; and a frontier log cabin.

Anheuser Busch is an enduring symbol of St. Louis. The brewery has new group options such as the Day Fresh Tour of the Bevo Packaging Plant; the Beermaster behind-the-scenes tour; and the Beer School, which offers a sampling class. The Biergarten has a capacity of 225 indoors and 300 outdoors, and the Tour Center Main Lobby and Pestalozzi Street Patio can accommodate 1,000.

“We loved St. Louis,” says Carol Serrano, director of conventions and meetings for the Council For Exceptional Children, based in Arlington, Virginia. Serrano brought 5,100 attendees to the organization’s Special Education Convention & Expo this April. “America’s Center was one of the best convention centers I’ve seen—user-friendly and filled with natural light. And St. Louis is very convention-friendly, with a lot of local volunteers and a great CVB. Our post-meeting surveys were off the charts.”

Branson

branson-convention-centerBranson Convention Center

Set amid the mountains and lakes of the Ozark region in southwestern Missouri, Branson combines interesting restaurants and shopping, one-of-a-kind attractions, more great live entertainment than just about anywhere in America and a meetings-friendly infrastructure.

It’s no newcomer to the business of hosting visitors. The first attraction to draw people here was Marvel Cave, located beneath the property where Silver Dollar City theme park now stands.

First called Marble Cave because its limestone walls were thought to be marble, it was explored by geologists in the 1860s and adventurers in the 1880s who lowered themselves on ropes 200 feet down. After reading about it in Scientific American, Canadian mining expert William Henry Lynch bought the cave sight-unseen, then traveled to the Ozarks and opened it to the public in 1894.

The Shepherd of the Hills, a novel written in 1907 by Harold Bell Wright, brought more attention to the area. Now the fourth most widely read book in publishing history, it also brought John Wayne a starring role in the 1941 movie. In 1959, two Branson brothers began performing the story in an old roller-skating rink on Lake Taneycomo. In 1959, their act turned into the Baldknobbers, which became the first professionally staged show in Branson. It’s still running, making it Branson’s longest-running show…and one of America’s most popular outdoor dramas.

The next big step in the transformation of Branson into an entertainment capital came in 1960, with the opening of Silver Dollar City, resembling an old frontier town. By 1963, it was Missouri’s biggest attraction. Today the company also owns local attractions such as White Water and Showboat Branson Belle. Silver Dollar City is an entertainment complex with thrill rides, attractions, shows, restaurants, musicians and an evening music show with a professional cast.

Branson has more than 50 theaters with live entertainment, many providing excellent meeting spaces and production services, along with famous entertainers to spark up your meetings.

Meeting Venues

At Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater complex, you can hold a meeting or event for 970 people, surrounded by memorabilia from the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. The Clay Cooper Theatre, which features stars such as Clay Cooper and Mickey Gilley, seats more than 1,200 and features three separate stages.

Even bigger events can be held at Welk Resort Theatre, a full-service convention and event facility with a 2,300-seat theater that regularly hosts performers such as Jay Leno, Lee Greenwood, Tanya Tucker and Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone. The Mansion Theatre can seat 3,000.

Branson also boasts a strikingly modern convention center. Branson Convention Center sits in the Branson Landing shopping, dining and entertainment complex, and offers planners 220,000 sq. ft. and a glass exterior that lets the Missouri sun and mountain vistas shine in. After the meetings, your attendees can roam amid more than 100 shops, restaurants and clubs, and enjoy live performances in the Town Square Amphitheater.

“Branson has a reputation for great entertainment,” says Cathi Wineland, executive director of the Indianapolis-based CenStates Chapter, Travel and Tourism Research Association. “And that reputation is certainly justified. But our attendees were amazed by the fact that there’s so much more, there, as well…great shopping and restaurants, attractions that are so much fun, the historic old section of town and the beautiful mountains and lakes. And they want to go back again!”


Steve Winston is an award-winning writer who has traveled extensively and writes for national and international magazines.


Kansas City Fun Facts

Kansas City has a bigger niche in American popular culture than some might realize. Did you know that…

According to the Kansas City Barbecue Society, founded in 1985, the city has more barbecue restaurants per capita than any other city in America.
What is today the largest maker of greeting cards in the world, Hallmark Cards, started in the city in 1910, when Mr. Joyce Hall started selling greeting cards out of a shoebox.
The largest maker of boxed chocolates on Earth, Russell Stover Candies has been based here since 1932.
Walt Disney opened his first animation studio in Kansas City, and a mouse in the building was his inspiration for Mickey Mouse.
Ernest Hemingway began his writing as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star in 1917.
Kansas City has been the site of more NCAA college basketball championships than any other city.
This city was the birthplace of notorious Western outlaw Jesse James.
Just after World War II, there were 86 factories in Kansas City manufacturing women’s clothing. One out of every seven women in America wore clothing made here.


Major Meeting Venues

Branson

Big Cedar Lodge

10 miles from Branson; Ozark Mountain resort spans 800 acres; six restaurants and bars; fitness center; marinas; horseback riding; two championship golf courses; 260 lodges, cottages and cabins; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Branson Convention Center

Striking glass structure; advanced technology throughout; 14 flexible meeting rooms; seating for 5,000; 220,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center

hilton-branson-convention-center-hotel

Majestic lodge overlooks scenic Table Rock Lake; world-class Spa Chateau; seven restaurants and lounges include seasonal deli; pool; onsite meeting planners; 301 guest rooms; 43,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Grand Plaza Hotel and Conference Center

Full-service conference center hotel; 200 guest rooms; 4,367 sq. ft. of conference space; fitness center; free Wi-Fi; 24-hour business center.

Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel

Connected to Branson Convention Center; AAA Four Diamond hotel; Level 2 Steakhouse is one of Branson’s finest restaurants; indoor and outdoor pools; fitness center; business center; 294 guest rooms; 114,000 sq. ft. of event space.

Radisson Hotel Branson

Located in the Theater District; business center; fitness center; pool; Wildwood Bistro and Time Out Sports Lounge; 13 flexible meeting rooms; 472 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

The Mansion Theatre

3,000 seats; large multimedia projection system; classic old-time theater.

Welk Resort Theatre

2,300-seat auditorium and spacious gathering areas; special-event planners onsite; Welk Production Team can put on a variety of shows and acts.

Kansas City

Hilton President Kansas City

hillton-kansas-louisjpg

AAA Four Diamond hotel in Power & Light entertainment district; classic architecture; two restaurants, Starbucks; free Wi-Fi; 213 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hotel Phillips

Stylish, Art Deco structure built in 1931; artwork in hallways; 12 Baltimore offers classic American fare; 217 guest rooms; 11,225 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Kansas City Convention Center

800,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; Bartle Hall has 388,800 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 2,400-seat theater; 10,000-seat arena; ballroom features great views of Kansas City skyline.

Kansas City Marriott Downtown

Centrally located; connected to Kansas City Convention Center; fitness center; pool; free Wi-Fi; MetropolitanKC offers elegant ambience and cuisine; high-tech meeting spaces; 983 guest rooms; 95,105 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Sheraton Kansas City Hotel At Crown Center

Shops, restaurants and theaters in Crown Center; complimentary shuttle service to local attractions; daily Social Hour; fitness center with experts from Core Performance; 730 guest rooms; 88,360 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Silverstein Eye Centers Arena

Home to minor-league hockey and indoor soccer teams; 131,972 sq. ft. of event space; 5,800 fixed seats; restaurant and catering services; ice-skating.

Sprint Center

Striking glass arena opened in 2007; seating for 18,500, with contiguous gathering/event spaces ranging up to 17,000 sq. ft.

The Westin Kansas City At Crown Center

85 acres of shops, restaurants and attractions right outside the door; fitness center; business center; hot tub; Brasserie Restaurant; connected to Crown Center Exhibition Hall; 724 guest rooms; 53,873 sq. ft. of meeting space.

St. Louis

America’s Center Convention Complex

502,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 67,000-seat Dome at America’s Center; 28,000-square-foot ballroom; 1,400-seat Ferrara Theatre; 502,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 80 meeting rooms.

Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at The Arch

Listed on National Register of Historic Places; 24-hour business center; 24-hour fitness center; indoor pool; two hot tubs; free breakfast; free Wi-Fi; 355 guest rooms; 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hilton St. Louis at The Ballpark

Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village are right outside the door; stunning 360 Rooftop Bar & Restaurant; indoor pool; business center; fitness room; 670 guest rooms; 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch

Walk to Gateway Arch, sports venues and attractions; Ruth’s Chris Steak House and three other eateries; 24-hour fitness center; Starbucks; 910 guest rooms; 83,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel

marriott-st-louis

Connected to America’s Center convention center; Zenia Bar & Grille offers elegant cuisine and microbrews; 917 recently upgraded guest rooms; 77,125 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Saint Louis Ballpark Village

Entertainment/dining district opened in 2014, next to Busch Stadium, home of the city’s Cardinals; accommodates groups up to 5,000, in facilities such as Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum, five production stages, Bud Deck and AT&T Rooftop.

The Chase Park Plaza

AAA Four Diamond historic hotel dates to 1931; Art Deco architecture; has hosted various celebrities and dignitaries; 338 guest rooms; more than 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; complimentary Wi-Fi.

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