NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Economy

Kansas City's New Convention Hotel Opens Amid Pandemic And Civic Unrest

060120_Inside of Loew's KC Convention Hotel_loewshotels.png
Loewshotels.com
A view of the city from inside the new Loew's Kansas City hotel.

With conventions canceled, the 24-story, 800-room Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel will roll out its amenities gradually throughout the summer and fall.

Kansas City’s new convention hotel opened downtown on Monday, but it was a low-key, no-fanfare event while the city copes with a pandemic.

The 24-story, 800-room Loews Kansas City Convention Center Hotel, at 1515 Wyandotte St., is the first new full-service convention hotel to open in downtown since 1985.

Its grand opening had been scheduled for April 2. But that date was postponed after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down the convention and tourism industry along with much of the rest of the city's economy.

Still, Loews officials said they are pleased to be in Kansas City at this challenging time.

“It’s going well,” the hotel’s managing director, Brian Johnson, said Monday afternoon. “We opened our doors at 10 a.m. and we’ve had people coming in wanting to take a look. There’s a lot of anticipation.”

Johnson said the hotel had a handful of guests check in and a few more were expected later in the day, mostly locals wanting a staycation.

“Everybody’s been cooped up,” he said, adding that it’s a good way to get out of the house into a brand new “safe, clean, very nice environment.”

The hotel is following all Kansas City Health Department COVID-19 guidelines, has protocols for social distancing, is requiring all staff to wear masks and is encouraging guests to do the same in public spaces.

New York-based Loews Hotels and Co. is a well-respected luxury convention hotel operator. Loews replaced Hyatt as the planned operator for the hotel and the company oversaw design and construction of the building that eventually cost $325 million.

In a statement, the company said it takes great care when deciding when and where to build its hotels.

“Today is one of those days where we look back and are proud of our decision, as we officially open Loews Kansas City, a hotel which has been in the works for more than seven years, starting with a vision city leaders had to continue the revitalization of downtown,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO, Loews Hotels & Co.

“Given what has transpired over the past several weeks, our opening is going to look a little different than we originally anticipated. However, at Loews Hotels we not only believe in Kansas City, we also believe in this project and its long term contributions to the destination, and look forward to celebrating and honoring all those involved later this year,” Tisch added.

loews_kansas_city_convention_center_hotel_2_julie_denesha.jpg
Julie Denesha
The 24-story Loew's Kansas City Hotel at 15th and Wyandotte has 800 rooms and 60,000 square feet of meeting space.

Kansas City civic leaders had said for years that the city needed a new flagship downtown hotel to make the most of the Bartle Hall convention center. The City Council approved a hotel plan in 2015 but it faced a series of setbacks even before the pandemic. Critics decried the hefty developer incentives awarded for the project. The City Council also dealt with a citizens’ petition attempt to put the plan to a public vote. The vote never happened and the project moved forward.

Construction finally began in 2018.

Construction was on a fast track to accommodate a July 2020 national Shriners convention. With that convention and others now been canceled, the hotel will roll out its amenities gradually throughout this summer and fall.

In addition to 800 rooms, the facility has 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, connected to the convention center via a new bridge. It will eventually boast four dining and lounge options. Currently, a grab-and-go coffee shop is open, along with a bar overlooking the downtown lobby level that is open to the public every day from 2 to 11 p.m.

Johnson acknowledged that recent months have posed an unprecedented challenge to the tourism and convention business. But he said the hotel expects some group bookings in July and its first convention in August, although he declined to provide specifics.

Johnson previously was managing director of the Loews Hollywood Hotel but said he and his wife were eager to get back to their roots in the Midwest. The family moved to the Kansas City area more than a year ago.

Johnson said Loews strives hard to be a good neighbor and community partner and is well positioned to survive in this difficult economic climate.

“It is a company that has a long history, a great history of doing the right things. We’re excited to be here and to work through the pandemic,” he said.

Johnson said the safety and well-being of guests, team members and the community will be a top priority.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.