Kansas City Kansas

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The UG Commission tonight approved a plan for a new hotel and ballroom next to the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (Architect's drawing)
The UG Commission tonight approved a plan for a new hotel and ballroom next to the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (Architect’s drawing)

The Unified Government Commission tonight approved plans for a new Hollywood Casino hotel but insisted on having sidewalks built from the casino to the Cerner office building.

Officials from Kansas Entertainment, including Penn National Gaming and the Kansas Speedway, attended the meeting to ask the commission to waive the sidewalk and lighting requirement, but the commission maintained its position to require them.

The preliminary plan review for the hotel and ballroom was approved as recommended earlier by the Planning Commission – with sidewalks and lighting. It was unanimously approved 8-0.

The preliminary plans calls for a 248 room two-story hotel with 143,180 square feet, and a 18,179-square-foot ballroom, according to UG documents. The ballroom would seat about 400 persons, according to officials. It will be accessible from the casino, to the south and west.

There will be quick access from the ballroom to the casino and from the hotel elevators to the casino, said Patrick Lenahan, architect with Yaeger Architecture.

“This will be the shortest walk from the elevator to a casino of any of the casinos in the Kansas City market,” Lenahan said.

There would be some reconfiguration of existing parking lots, along with creation of a new drive-up and porte cochere for the hotel entry, replacing the current entry at the south end of the casino, according to Lenahan.

The location of some of the two-room suites will be facing turn two of the Kansas Speedway and will afford a view of the racetrack, according to Lenahan.

The completion date of the hotel would be the end of 2016, according to the officials, if work starts in April. The exterior of the new hotel and ballroom will be glass, stucco, stone and tile and will be similar to the existing Hollywood Casino building, according to officials.

Officials with the casino hotel project said that the original 2009 agreement with the UG did not call for sidewalks with lighting from Village West Parkway to the casino.

It’s an isolated, site, a quarter-mile walk from Village West Parkway to the casino entrance and is under a mile from State Avenue, according to Patrick Lenahan with Yaeger Architecture.

“We just don’t think there’s a demand for pedestrian access,” Lenahan told the commission. “One hundred percent of the customers here drive or take a taxi or take public transportation to arrive at the destination.”

UG documents stated that the closest bus stop was Village West Parkway, north of State Avenue.

William (B.J.) Fair, executive vice president of Penn National Gaming, said although they were pleased in general with the planning commission and project, building the sidewalk as planned is not appropriate for guests at this time. It would invite guests to walk down a sidewalk and arrive to a busy parkway with no additional sidewalks going into it, he said.

Fair said he did not believe it was the right time to add the sidewalks.

“We do object to this,” said Jeff Boerger, president at Kansas Speedway Development Corp.

“We look at it also as a Kansas Speedway development issue, rather than a Hollywood Casino-Kansas Entertainment issue,” he said.

“As we continue to develop the Speedway property along Village West Parkway, we will then go back and install the pedestrian infrastructure that goes from Village West up to the whole development area to the northeast,” he said.

However, the commission wanted the sidewalks.

Mayor Mark Holland said he is excited about the project and thinks it is great, but considering the amount of traffic, the 9,000 jobs in the Village West area, and the tremendous parking issue, it was important to do all they could to expand the pedestrian experience.

“Each component moving forward needs to build their share of the infrastructure,” Mayor Holland said “I think that component is essential to this project.”

Commissioner Mike Kane told them safety was important and that there was a way to make the sidewalks work, and the lighting was important.

Commissioner Jane Philbrook said even though the original agreement did not call for sidewalks and lighting for them, since things have changed in a few years, she believed they needed to add those amenities to make it one cohesive area so people would feel free to take a walk and get some exercise.

In the UG planning documents, the UG staff stated a requirement to connect the sidewalk to Village West Parkway.

The applicant pointed out, in the documents, that there was no public sidewalk along Village West Parkway, and the casino remained remote from the other Village West developments. It was the feeling of the applicant that the hotel and ballroom were an addition that was internal to the site, which was already developed.

The UG staff responded in the UG documents that they wanted the sidewalk to extend from the west property line from the main entrance along Village West Parkway, north to the Cerner property line, and the lighting should cover the same area.

An architect's drawing shows plans for a new hotel and ballroom at the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
An architect’s drawing shows plans for a new hotel and ballroom at the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

Window on the West
by Mary Rupert

Mayor Mark Holland gave his state of the Unified Government speech earlier this week, and readers of this column will note that some, but not all, of the same information about economic development was in a column two weeks ago, when the mayor spoke at the Leavenworth Road Association meeting.

That column is at http://wyandottedaily.com/questions-and-answers-about-economic-development-projects-in-kansas-city-kan/.

What intrigues me is whether the Krispy Kreme grand opening at Wyandotte Plaza, just a couple hours before the mayor’s speech Tuesday, grabbed the attention away from the mayor’s day?

The mayor was not able to attend the grand opening that day because of his speech scheduled that morning, and he visited the new store at Wyandotte Plaza for an employee event the weekend before, according to the local Krispy Kreme communications officer. The company had rescheduled the grand opening two times because of delays and was finally ready to go on Tuesday, according to the spokesman. The store opening made national news, as it was the company’s 1,000th store opening.

Republicans including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer were on hand at the doughnut shop event to welcome the new store.

The mayor made a big media swing, appearing on broadcast news programs and talk shows the next day in order to get his state of the UG economic development message out.

I’m not really sure how the doughnut store opening fits with the UG’s healthy communities plan, but maybe a walking trail is needed at Wyandotte Plaza now.

It’s difficult being an unaffiliated candidate in Wyandotte County

Janice Grant Witt, a candidate for the Unified Government, 1st District at large, said she doesn’t expect to win but she is sometimes having an opportunity to get her message out during this campaign.

However, as an unaffiliated candidate Witt was not allowed to speak at the Democratic breakfast last weekend at Kansas City Kansas Community College. She said she was questioned about whether she was really a Republican at that meeting. She said she is unaffiliated. Only Democratic candidates were allowed to speak at the meeting, and only those who were Democrats and unaffiliated could attend. While she said she wasn’t asking to speak at the meeting, she felt she was being questioned about her party in an attempt to remove her from the room. She was told she could not pass out her campaign information, too.

Witt said her husband, currently a Democrat, now is thinking of switching parties. Janice Witt told us she ran into a similar situation a few years back at a Republican meeting, where she was questioned about being a Democrat, but she has been told she was welcome to speak there now.

In past years some candidates have told us that it’s more fun to be the underdog, and then you can criticize the powers that be. Witt’s “tell it like it is” campaign included lots of criticisms at the forum held at the John F. Kennedy Community Center. But at the Armourdale forum held on Wednesday night, Witt left all her campaign speech behind and instead talked just about her efforts to help the homeless on that very cold night, and also about the Reola Grant Civitan Center, which she founded, at Victory Dodge on State Avenue.

The Armourdale forum has a policy of “no candidate bashing” and no debating, so it was quite a bit tamer than some other events held earlier this month.

On Saturday, Witt said she felt that she has a right to attend the Democrats’ meeting, as the meeting notice said unaffiliated voters could attend.

Access is an interesting thing. In general, people do not have access to a private organization’s meeting, unless invited or unless it is open to the public, while they do have access to government-sponsored public events. In general, they also have access to the places open to the public in public buildings – not necessarily to individual rooms in the building. Witt expressed the thought that she was in a public building and should have been allowed to speak.

Legalities of access aside, however, many organizations have changed their approach to membership in recent years. That’s because a lot of the younger generation has expressed a fear of long-term commitment to membership. Organizations instead are holding single-day or weekend events to draw in the younger generation, which is membership-shy. I doubt that the organizations will get a lot of new members by double-checking individuals’ membership at meetings. Access and membership are some interesting issues that the political parties have to face in the future.

I enjoyed attending some of the forums, but my own experience was that the Democrats were the best at getting out information in advance about their candidate forum last Saturday morning, better than the other local groups that had forums. The Democrats sent out several email blasts about their upcoming event.

Is it Village East or Village West?

The name “Village East” appeared in some media reports again recently concerning the 98th and State Avenue Schlitterbahn area being developed for the Dairy Farmers of America headquarters.

I did not see the Village East name used again in the current UG documents or at the meetings, but only in some other media reports. The Village East name had surfaced on some documents when the first public announcement was made of the U.S. Soccer training facility near Schlitterbahn, but officials later said it would not be used for that area again.

That use of the name “Village East” is something State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., doesn’t like to see, since he has the rights to the name “Village East.” And in Sen. Haley’s opinion, Village East will be east of I-635, some day.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottepublishing.com.

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The Friends of the FOP, the political action committee for the Kansas City, Kan., Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 4, has endorsed Melissa Bynum for the Unified Government, 1st District at large seat, and Scott Murray for the UG 4th District seat, according to an announcement.

Lodge No. 4 includes the current and retired law enforcement officers of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department.

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