Thursday, March 6, 2008

Downtown's Live Music Scene is EXPLODING!


(As reported by Kevin Collison @ The Star)

Strike up the bands.

The Cordish Co. today plans to roll out a sweeping entertainment schedule aimed at pulling visitors into the Kansas City Power & Light District throughout the year.

Beginning with a fireworks-enhanced performance this evening by Pat McGee, a Virginia recording artist, and continuing through December, Cordish plans 150 events at the multiblock downtown entertainment district.

Those events include rock, country and blues concert series, family activity days and a June art festival. One early highlight will be Sister Hazel, an alternative rock band scheduled to perform March 14 during the Big 12 basketball tournament.

Schedule details are to be announced today at a 6 p.m. event in the Kansas City Live block, the epicenter for live entertainment in the district at 14th Street and Grand Boulevard.

“It’s yet another entertainment opportunity to create great energy and the street life that downtown has lacked for so long,” said Jon Stephens, the Power & Light District marketing director.

Cordish officials want the canopy-covered courtyard at the Kansas City Live block to become the living room for downtown. Besides a live music stage, the courtyard will feature a 12-by-16-foot video screen. When the stage is not being used, it will convert to a wall fountain and pool.

“The Power & Light District is not simply a construction project but represents a new neighborhood and a new heartbeat for the broader Kansas City community,” said Blake Cordish, vice president with Baltimore-based Cordish.

Officials with Cordish acknowledge that a robust schedule of public events is crucial to the long-term viability of the planned $850 million entertainment district, which has been heavily supported by local and state tax incentives.

Kansas City issued about $300 million in city-backed bonds that are to be repaid by the new taxes that a planned 425,000 square feet of restaurants, bars and other businesses in the project will be expected to generate. More than a dozen venues are scheduled to be open for the Big 12 tournament next week, with more opening in coming months.

Cordish is charging high rents for the tenants in the district, and drawing thousands of customers on a regular basis through aggressive marketing is part of the deal.

“We want to change traffic patterns so people stay downtown, and we start seeing cars heading into downtown instead of out on evenings and weekends,” Stephens said.

To accomplish that goal, Cordish is launching a raft of weekly entertainment offerings:

•A Wednesday night Rock the Block series will feature national and regional rock bands in June and July. The series will switch to local bands and become Home Grown Buzz from August through mid-October.

•A Thursday night Hot Country Nights concert series will run June through August.

•On First Fridays, there will be bands, DJs and other entertainment in the Kansas City Live block after the popular Crossroads Art District gallery event ends at 9 p.m. On other Fridays, there will be an after-work party, but no live music.

•A Saturday afternoon Sprint Family Fun series will run under the clock tower at the district’s outdoor plaza called Elements. That series will run 14 weeks beginning May 24.

•A Sunday evening blues festival is scheduled for August. From late spring through fall, 28 weeks of live jazz is scheduled Thursdays through Sunday evenings at the Elements plaza and along 14th Street.

Stephens said the district also plans a weekend Downtown Art Festival June 28-29 and is anticipating 100 artists. The district also plans to hold many charitable events.

Bob Hartnett, CEO of Houlihan’s Restaurant Group, said his new Bristol seafood restaurant that opened in the district last week will welcome the extra activity. “The Bristol will have its own appeal,” Harnett said. “But clearly having an energy level and events will allow us to definitely feed off of that.”

Area musicians should benefit. Besides all the events being planned by Cordish, individual bars and restaurants are expected to book their own entertainment as well.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” said Ed Fenner of KC Jazz Voice. “These are going to be daytime affairs which will provide additional income for musicians who generally aren’t working during the day.”

To get the word out about activities and events, Cordish is planning an extensive marketing effort including its own monthly newspaper. The publication will be called the Spark and will include parking information, map, events calendar and features about tenants. It will be distributed in the district, online and as a monthly insert in the Sunday edition of The Kansas City Star.

Parking in the Power & Light District garages is available after 5 p.m. weekdays and all weekend. The cost is $2 with validation with any purchase from a district tenant. Valet parking also will be available evenings and weekends for $6.

Stephens said the Power & Light District is striving to create an environment where people will feel comfortable. Cordish will employ a 65-member security force patrolling on foot and bicycle, and the city has put surveillance cameras in the district.


TONIGHT
•The kickoff event, which starts at 6 p.m. in the Kansas City Live block at 14th Street and Grand Boulevard, will include fireworks and a concert by Pat McGee.

No bandanas or baggy pants, please
The Cordish Co. has implemented a dress code for events at the Kansas City Live block. It’s a move that has stirred controversy elsewhere.

“We believe it will be a safe and friendly environment,” said Jon Stephens, Power & Light District marketing director. “The live courtyard is built to be an environment that can be controlled. … all events will require wristbands and IDs to purchase alcoholic beverages.”

The dress code will include prohibitions on “bandanas, work boots, and ripped and excessively baggy clothing.” Stephens said the code would be posted prominently. He said Cordish was working with City Councilwoman Melba Curls on an ordinance that would establish citywide standards for implementing dress codes. Curls could not be reached for comment. Cordish ran into criticism and legal challenges when it implemented a dress code at its Fourth Street Live entertainment district in Louisville, Ky. That project opened in 2002, and at the time the dress code restricted patrons from wearing athletic jerseys, sleeveless shirts and hats turned backwards. Critics of the policy said it discriminated against young blacks and poor people. Published reports indicated Cordish dropped much of its dress code policy in 2004. The local security staff will include off-duty Kansas City Police Department officers and professional security officers hired at the district’s expense, Stephens said. “Our goal is to make sure all guests are given great service, provided with directions and information that they seek, and have a great visit in a safe and enjoyable environment,” Stephens said.

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