May 15, 2014

Guests at Westport’s 816 Hotel get a taste of Kansas City attractions

The hotel, formerly a Holiday Inn Express, has 20 Kansas City-themed rooms designed by some of Kansas City’s best known entities — Boulevard Brewing Co., Kelly’s Westport Inn, the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, the Kansas City Zoo, and Trans World Airlines (TWA). The other 87 rooms have at least four historical photos. The official opening is May 22.

Now some Kansas City tourists will get a taste of the area without leaving their hotel rooms.

Westport’s new 816 Hotel has 20 Kansas City-themed rooms designed in most cases with input from some of Kansas City’s best known entities — Boulevard Brewing Co., the Roasterie, Kelly’s Westport Inn, the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, the Kansas City Zoo, and Trans World Airlines. The 87 other rooms have at least four historical photos each.

Doug Gamble, a partner in the hotel at 801 Westport Road, wanted to play up the area’s colorful past while offering the “comforts and customer expectations” of the present.

He’s been in the hotel business since graduating from Cornell University in 1991, when he worked in franchise development for Holiday Inn. In 2003, he became a partner in a Country Club Plaza area hotel and later other area hotels, including Westport’s Q Hotel + Spa.

Gamble and the other Q Hotel partners sold the property in late 2013, and he soon became a partner with Larry Gates in the nearby Holiday Inn Express. In March they left the Holiday Inn franchise as they prepared to convert the property to the 816 Hotel.

The hotel is open but will officially become 816 Hotel on May 22.

Gamble said the remodeling cost about $500,000.

The TWA room, No. 619, has twin seats from a McDonnell Douglas MD-80, a beverage cart, a custom headboard designed to look like captain’s wings, a TWA first aid kit, a shadowbox with a TWA life vest, a shower curtain showing seven different TWA logos, and a photo mural of a TWA Constellation (more commonly known as the Connie) soaring through the skies.

The Kansas City Zoo’s room, No. 518, has a photo wall mural of penguins, penguin-shaped shower curtain hooks, a penguin-shaped ice bucket, and “iceberg” headboard.

The Mutual Musicians Foundation’s room, No. 504, has a working piano and clarinet, a “keyboard” headboard, and the May 4, 1930, foundation’s dedication as its photo wall mural. It also will have a 30-minute DVD documenting the foundation’s history, and a complimentary bottle of the foundation’s wine.

Anita Dixon, vice president of the Mutual Musicians Foundation, called 816 Hotel a “brilliant idea to showcase Kansas City.”

“You can walk up and down the hallways and be in historic Kansas City, what made us a city. Every nook and cranny of that place has a story to it,” Dixon said. “Doug didn’t forget anyone — the multicultural aspect, the buildings. I think people are going to go nuts over this hotel.”

There also are rooms decorated to touch Kansas City’s Irish community, and its mobster past. Floor-to-ceiling photo murals line the walls of each elevator landing with some murals stretching down the hallways to the rooms, including vintage photos of the stockyards, the Liberty Memorial dedication and a Negro Leagues baseball game.

The lobby has been remodeled and now has a full-service bar. The backdrop of the bar is a historic photo mural of a live monkey scurrying to collect tips at a downtown bar.

The hotel’s customers will have access to high-speed Internet, complimentary passes to the nearby Gold’s Gym, free breakfast including an omelet bar, two free drinks in the bar, and free shuttle service in a four-mile radius.

“When you run into people on the coasts, they say ‘Why live in Kansas City?’” Gamble said. “I think it is good once in a while to bang on your chest and say, ‘This is Kansas City and it’s pretty cool.’”

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.

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