Emanuel Cleaver II has his boulevard. Richard Berkley, the riverfront. The old Downtown Airport is named for Charlie Wheeler. Ilus Davis has a park and statue in front of City Hall.
Come June 29, Kay Barnes — also a former mayor of this city — will have her ballroom.
After a four-year search, the Grand Ballroom at the Kansas City Convention Center will be dedicated as the Kay Barnes Ballroom. It will honor the city's first female mayor, whose leadership from 1999 to 2007 is credited with catalyzing the revival of a moribund downtown.
But is a grand ballroom grand enough for the woman who led the way for signature projects like the Sprint Center and the Power & Light District?
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The 40,500-square-foot space (expandable to 46,400 square feet) shares the convention center with an exhibit hall named for another mayor: H. Roe Bartle.
Mayor Sly James thinks it's just fine.
"Everybody wants a street," James said this week, clearly exhibiting symptoms of naming fatigue. He's been in the middle of a politically charged debate over how the city should honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A group of ministers is campaigning for a renaming of The Paseo. An advisory group former by James recommended the new airport or 63rd Street.
James called the ballroom "a place where a lot of people in Kansas City go, and a place where a lot of people from outside the city go." It is the site of numerous top-tier civic events, including Greater Kansas City Area Mayors' Prayer Breakfast and the Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner.
The ever-decorous Barnes, reached by phone Wednesday, said that she was honored to be recognized.
"I'm fine not being a street," she said.
Outside the ballroom will be a bronze sculpture by Kansas City artist Tom Corbin, whose work Barnes admires. The piece, called "Woman Walking Tall," depicts a woman walking resolutely forward.
"Her powerful stride, raised chin and erect shoulders combine to produce this 'woman with a mission,'" Corbin wrote in a 2006 book.
It was June 30, 2014 when James announced the search for a way to honor Barnes.
"I'm committed to elevating Mayor Barnes' legacy so that our next generation of female leaders see what is possible and understand just how much she helped change our view of what our city should be," James said. He appointed attorney Herb Kohn, a close adviser to Barnes during her mayoral tenure, to lead the committee that would consider ideas.
And consider they did.
They considered parks: Washington Square near Crown Center. Mill Creek near The Plaza. They considered the Broadway Bridge — Barnes was also the first mayor from the Northland — before it was snapped up for Buck O'Neil.
It's not clear why a street wasn't selected. There was talk of 14th Street, crossing the heart of the downtown she helped to remake. At one point James said he wanted "something akin to a big grand statue of her straddling Grand," before quickly deciding maybe not.
"We went through a lot of options," Kohn said.
Time passed. People got busy with other things, James acknowledged.
Kohn said the ballroom is an appropriate site for honoring Barnes.
"She was the impetus for everything good that's been happening in the city in the downtown area," he said.
Besides, Barnes said, "My husband is a fabulous ballroom dancer."