Bartle Hall loses its cutting edge.

Kansas City Strip 

Bartle Hall loses its cutting edge.

Goin' to Kansas City?: What a difference six years makes. On September 23, 1994, a thousand business leaders donned tuxedos and gowns. They dined on smoked duck and crab to celebrate the newly expanded Bartle Hall. "Kansas City is now on the cutting edge of growth and development in this nation," then-Mayor Emanuel Cleaver said.

The new convention center had cost $144.4 million, much of it funded by restaurant and hotel taxes Kansas City voters approved in 1990. All week, talk had been about the new Bartle Hall's economic impact: 40 conventions had been booked through the year 2002! The Star reported that "at least 12 different conventions, involving 43,000 people, would not have chosen Kansas City had it not been for the extra space"!

But two weeks ago, a convention-industry consultant told the city council's Finance and Audit Committee that Kansas City can't compete for convention business because Bartle's ballroom is too small, its meeting rooms are bogged down in 20th-century technology, and the exhibition hall will probably have to be expanded again.

What happened to cutting-edge? Kevin Kelley, vice president of sales and marketing for the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Kansas City, says the city knew when Bartle was under construction back in 1993 that the hall would need the upgrades but that "they were engineered out or the funds weren't there to do it." He says he doesn't know how much convention business the city's losing, "but if you're not up to speed technology-wise in your building, they will go to other buildings that have technology that we don't have."

Technology problems could screw up other potential visitors, as well. In a survey of the singles scene across America, the September edition of InStyle lists Kansas City's Life "Cafe" as the town's happenin' bar (along with the Royals' Mike Sweeney as a "hometown hottie," "dancing to Cajun music at the annual Crawdad Festival" as a "cool activity," and L.A. Confidential author James Ellroy as a "name to drop"). But the magazine gives the club's address as "21 W. Tin St." We know they really mean 10th Street, but out-of-town swingers who log onto MapQuest will get directions to an industrial neighborhood in North Kansas City -- the Internet service substitutes "Iron" for "Tin" street.

At least we have football. The magazine's recommended "pick-up line"? "I have season tickets to the Chiefs on the 50-yard line."

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