by Alex Palmer | February 02, 2018
Missouri's biggest city is seeing some of this state's biggest developments. Kansas City had 25.2 million visitors in 2016 -- a new record -- and visitors spent $926 million at hotels and motels throughout the region. Its cultural attractions make the city a hit with attendees, from amazing barbecue to the bustling Power & Light District of shops and restaurants in downtown, to the high culture of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts or Nelson-Atkins Museum.
From a meetings and conventions perspective, the most prominent news is the recent groundbreaking of a new convention center hotel, slated for completion in 2020. Offering 800 guest rooms, more than 60,000 square feet of event space, and a connection (via bridge) to the Kansas City Convention Center, the Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel will boost the city's meetings offerings further than they already are. The property will include a lobby bar, signature restaurant, indoor lap pool, and more.

Kansas City is also seeing significant growth in its infrastructure. Last November, the city voted for a new terminal at the Kansas City International Airport, with plans for two concourses with 35 gates, costing almost $1 billion, and slated for completion in 2021. Early last month, the Federal Transit Administration approved the project development of the KC Streetcar Expansion, which would extend the public transportation system south as well as northeast into the city's Berkley Riverfront Park.

Beyond the new Loews, there is plenty of new and renovated hotel inventory on the horizon. By 2020, the city will boast 4,200 rooms in the convention core alone, and currently claims 32,000 rooms citywide. The city's largest convention hotel -- the Kansas City Marriott Downtown -- is currently completing a $40 million renovation of its 983 guest rooms, adding tech-friendly features such as computer-oriented work desks and high-speed internet (as well as soft seating and a "minimalist wardrobe system"). It also offers 93,000 square feet of meeting space.

On the boutique front, the 21c Museum Hotel Kansas City is expected to open in summer 2018. Housed in the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill, it will include the 21c brand's signature mix of art-oriented programming and exhibitions with creative culinary offerings.

These developments come after the recent opening of the 115-room Hilton Home2 Suites as well as the 257-room Courtyard Marriott/Residence Inn (with 5,000 square feet of meeting space).

St. Louis
There are major cultural developments happening on the eastern side of the state, with St. Louis planning a number of major projects that will enhance the city's attractions. This summer will see the completion of the $380 million renovation of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial as well as its surrounding parks and riverfront -- connecting the iconic Gateway Arch with downtown as well as the Mississippi River. The revitalized area, offering spaces for outdoor gatherings and indoor events, will open officially for the annual Fair St. Louis celebration on July 4.

Another major project underway is Phase II of Ballpark Village -- the mixed-use dining and entertainment district next to Busch Stadium -- that will see the addition of a new, 216-room (including 19 suites) Live! By Loews hotel, with 17,000 square feet of meeting space and great views of the stadium, Arch, and downtown St. Louis. It will also offer a lounge and outdoor terrace, allowing for both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

"The influx of new residents, and the revitalization of the urban corridor, has resulted in a robust restoration of the city's central business district," says John Bettag, vice president of sales for Explore St. Louis. "Chief among these urban improvements are the expanded and fully renovated Arch grounds, the second phase of the enhancement of Ballpark Village, and the development of some highly anticipated and uniquely designed hotels."

Other cultural attractions that will interest visiting groups: The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, honoring members of the armed services and their families, will undergo a $30 million renovation to enhance the art deco building and add new exhibit space and a Court of Honor park. The new, $45 million St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station promises "one-of-a-kind exhibits and tanks" and has begun construction with an expected completion of summer 2019.

Bettag adds that other noteworthy additions include a 2.2-mile trolley system that transports visitors from the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park to the "infamous and hip Delmar Loop with many eclectic stops between," as well as the addition of award-winning restaurants that "cater to a global palette, new pedestrian greenways that link downtown to the riverfront, and some enchanting art-filled parks along Market Street."

Last summer, the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch wrapped up an $11 million renovation, including upgrades to its lobby and 910 guest rooms -- new carpets and furniture, artwork, televisions, and more. It offers 83,000 square feet of meeting space. Later this year, a new, 140-room Hotel Saint Louis Marriott Autograph will open in the historic Union Trust building, and an $8 million renovation of the 255-room Westin St. Louis, near Busch Stadium, is also in the works.