What we can expect in KC in 2014

12/31/2013 4:28 PM

01/01/2014 12:28 AM

The ball dropped at midnight. Kathy Griffin is done punking Anderson Cooper until the next New Year’s eve rolls around.

No escaping it, folks, we have arrived in 2014.

Which is very good news for some of you. Especially Kansas City’s action junkies, for whom the year ahead promises to be positively Verrückt!

Which is German for “insane!” as in “woo-hoo!” It also happens to be the name of that 17-story water slide set to open next May at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, Kan.

But of course, 2014 has much more in store for us locally than the installation of the world’s tallest and crazy-fast slide.

Already the year ahead promises a number of big anniversaries to mark, progress on the economic front locally and new things to anticipate with worry and dread.

You thought that mess downtown was bad in 2013? Behold the Johnson County Gateway project, a $285 million headache of potentially migraine proportions set to begin later this year at and around the junction of interstates 35 and 435, with work on the K-10 and I-435 split and the 95th Street overpass thrown in to make things even more interesting.

We use the wiggle word “potentially” because you just never know about the future. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once famously observed, “there are known knowns, there are known unknowns but there are also unknown unknowns –– the ones we don't know we don’t know.”

So get out your calendars and let’s stick to what we do know lies ahead.

Celebrations aplenty

Every year is chock-a-block with notable anniversaries, but 2014 has several big, round-number ones worthy of commemoration hereabouts.

Let’s start with centennials. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war. To mark it, the National World War I Museum is scheduling conferences, new exhibits and a bugler will play “Taps” at the base of the Liberty Memorial each evening during one week in June.

This fall also marks the centennial of Union Station, which will play host to a long weekend of celebration Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. It’s set to begin with a gala fundraising event and end with a two-day open house during which visitors can get in free to the planetarium, science museum and other attractions.

A permanent exhibit focusing on the history of the station is also in the works.

Of course, we’ll also be hearing a lot about the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania, as Kansas City clambers aboard that nostalgia train with recollections of the Sept. 17, 1964, concert that John, Paul, George and Ringo put on at old Municipal Stadium.

Other anniversaries: It’s the 150th for the Battle of Westport, for which a Civil War re-enactment is planned.

Local baseball fans will surely note twin anniversaries for Hall-of-Famer George Brett. It was 40 years ago, in 1974, that Brett played his first full season in the Major Leagues and perfected his swing under the tutelage of the legendary Royals hitting coach Charley Lau. Twenty years later, in 1994, the Royals retired Brett’s number.

Drink up, because it’s also the 25th birthday of Boulevard Brewing Co., which plans on staging a new festival, Boulevardia, in the West Bottoms this June.

And it’s been 20 years since the “Shuttlecocks” took root at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and that the “Sky Stations” were installed atop Bartle Hall.

You know, the hair curlers.

Sports stuff

In 2014, we’ll learn whether Sporting Kansas City can hang onto the Major League Soccer title the team won in 2013, and whether the Chiefs’ comeback this football season and the Royals’ first pennant run in a generation were flukes or the sign of things to come.

KU, K-State, Mizzou? Your guess is as good as anybody’s.

But at least the Kansas City sports calendar is locked in. And sorry, after two straight years of hosting major-league all-star games for baseball and then soccer, KC isn’t guaranteed the national sports spotlight in 2014.

Likewise, NCAA will skip us for March Madness this year. But the Big 12, Division I Basketball Tournament will be back March 12-15 at Sprint Center.

For the first time, the NCAA Division II football championship will be played at Sporting Park next December and continuing through 2017.

Swope Soccer Village will host the Division III men’s and women’s soccer semifinals and final in 2014 and 2015.

Can’t escape politics

With 2014 being an even-numbered year, it won’t be long before the bombardment of campaign commercials, robo calls and candidate mailers starts again — if it hasn’t already.

None of those occupying the three area congressional seats is in much danger of being unseated. Races for statewide offices in Missouri are, with the exception of state auditor two years away, and Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders is a lock for re-election as he seeks a third term.

That means, absent a hot referendum fight in Missouri, most of the hot political action will be on the Kansas side. Will Gov. Sam Brownback get a second term? Can the controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach keep his job? Might U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts lose a primary challenge from a well-funded Tea Partier?

Big doings Downtown

Rails are being laid down Main Street for the downtown streetcar line, but the trains won’t be running until 2015.

However, there’s no shortage of projects getting underway or scheduled for completion in the Kansas City’s central business district.

This year the feds plan to move 900 jobs to the Two Pershing Square office building next to Union Station after vacating the federal complex on Bannister Road.

Some of those workers might choose to live downtown. Problem is, most of the rental properties are full up. But luckily, several new projects on the horizon aim to help fill that demand.

Cordish Co. said it will begin construction in 2014 of a 25-story, 311-unit apartment complex on the site of the former Jones Store at 13th and Walnut streets.

VanTrust Real Estate is teaming with Swope Community Builders to finally complete the long-delayed East Village project, just northeast of City Hall, starting with construction this year of a 180-unit apartment building at 10th and Holmes streets.

Also, work is to begin on building 45 to 50 new units next to the Rieger Hotel Grill Exchange at 1914 Main St. The Colorado developer picked the location because it’s along the streetcar line, and city officials say that’s just the start of what they hope will be a raft of development inspired by the two-mile starter line.

Awaiting word

We won’t know until February whether Kansas City will get to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

If successful, it’d be the third time in the city’s history that the GOP came here to nominate its candidates for president and vice president. The last time was in 1976, when President Gerald Ford and Sen. Bob Dole were chosen to top the ticket and later lost. The time before was in 1928, when Herbert Hoover was chosen to top the ticket and another Kansas senator, Charles Curtis, went on, unlike Dole, to become vice president.

The last and only time the Democrats were in town to nominate their standard bearer was in 1900, when William Jennings Bryan got the pick.

Also in 2014, we should find out the routes for the first extensions to the downtown streetcar line. Three top the list: south to the Plaza and two routes to the east, one on Independence Avenue and the other on Linwood Boulevard or 31st Street toward the sports complex.

Will Jackson County’s commuter rail project finally — wait for it — pick up steam?

Or how about Kansas City International Airport? Will city officials dump the current three-terminal configuration and go with a single terminal, or maybe something less ambitious?

A citizens advisory group is examining all of the options for KCI and will submit recommendations after public hearings in February and March, including one in Johnson County.

We might or might not get answers to those questions in 2014, but we should begin to get a better idea how Google Fiber’s high-speed Internet project is starting to play out.

Big thrills?

We do know that in 2014 that Justin Timberlake is set to perform at back-to-back concerts, July 30 and 31, at the Sprint Center. Tickets sold out fast, but you know how it is. They’re available on the “secondary market” at a price.

This year also marks the arrival of the world’s largest home furniture retailer to the Kansas City market. Ikea plans to open a 359,000 square foot store in Merriam at I-35 and Johnson Drive next fall.

Your answer to the question “which of those twin big events in 2014 excites you the most?” probably says a lot about you.

However, if the answer is that neither floats your boat then we’ll see you on the stairs of that big water slide.

Seventeen stories? Already Verrückt gets our vote for word of the year.

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