5 Kansas City renovation projects to look for as you emerge from quarantine

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Photo by Caleb Condit & Rebecca Norden

For the last year, much of the city has been shut down. Mostly, that’s been painful. But there was one small silver lining: the clearing of a backlog of renovation projects around Kansas City. Without visitors to work around, some museums and parks have gotten a fast facelift. Here’s what to look for as you emerge from quarantine.

Starlight Theatre

After having to cancel its season due to Covid, the outdoor theater is set to reopen with updates to comply with ADA requirements. Rich Baker, Starlight’s president and CEO, says the state allocated $3.5 million to level walkways, increase ADA companion seats and raise terraces. The work is set to be completed mid-April. The facility also got new water fountains and mobile ordering of concessions to alleviate crowding.

The Monarchs and Their Stadium

At the tail end of 2019, the T-Bones minor league baseball team in KCK went bankrupt and was sold. As the pandemic wanes, the team is emerging, well, a little like a butterfly—specifically a Monarch. The team’s new name is a tip of the cap to local history and establishes a prized partnership with the Negro Leagues Museum. The stadium itself has been extensively rehabbed during the downtime and will be unveiled for the team’s May 18 opening day. Mark McKee, the Monarchs’ managing partner, says the team has completely renovated the club level suites, restrooms, lighting, sound and high-end seating. The stadium is also getting a craft beer garden and a home plate bar and adding barbecue, pizza and tacos to the restaurants at the stadium.

Truman Museum

Every past president since Herbert Hoover has gotten his own library and museum, and that includes Kansas City’s own Harry S. Truman, who is memorialized with a museum in Independence that’s perched to overlook the city skyline.

The Truman Museum got lucky on the timing of the pandemic, according to director Kurt Graham, as it was already slated to close for a $26 million renovation. “If Covid had to happen, it’s very fortunate because we were planning on being closed anyway and we had already budgeted to be without that revenue,” he says.

The Truman Museum will have exhibits on both levels detailing Truman’s life and legacy. A theater will replicate a bombed-out city to connect the audience with the understanding of how the Cold War began. The exhibits will explain how Truman helped rebuild post-WWII through the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, the founding of NATO and much more. A globe will show the stress and fractures of the world and how Truman responded to all the issues to strengthen and rebuild the world.

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Photography by International Architects Atelier

Kansas City Museum

The historic mansion-to-museum will be opening its doors back up this fall after closing for renovations in 2017. All four levels of the mansion have been renovated, but director of programs and events Paul Gutiérrez says that that is merely phase one in the process. The first-floor rooms have been recreated and renovated, the billiards room has been restored, and the elements of the soda fountain, which were part of the original museum in 1940, have been brought back.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro National League celebrated its hundredth anniversary last year. Thanks to long-overdue updates, the museum was able to begin work on two new exhibits in March of 2020 and reopen last June—though with the pandemic going, fewer people have been able to see new changes. Ray Dowsell, the museum’s VP, helped contribute to the new exhibits, “Breaking Barriers” and “Changing Times,” which add a more extensive view and understanding of African American baseball players from 1939 to 1960. With more photos and artifacts displayed in backlit boxes, visitors will be more informed and inspired by the history than they might have previously been.

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