As more people move downtown, they will need more shared public spaces where they can have low-cost fun and enjoy the openness of being outdoors.
The Port Authority of Kansas City, or Port KC, last week announced the addition of two dog parks to the western edge of Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park. Port KC is leasing two acres to Bear Bishop LLC for the dog parks plus the additions of a bar and restaurant on vacant land under the Heart of America Bridge.
Those attractions will be in addition to the park getting six new sand volleyball courts and two kickball fields. Each will do a lot to attract more young people who want to have fun and enjoy playing with others along the Missouri River, which is one of the area’s greatest resources.
The 17-acre park is between the Christopher “Kit” Bond Bridge and Heart of America Bridge. It also is within walking distance of the Isle of Capri Casino.
Berkley Riverfront Park, a former landfill for construction debris, at its beginning was much like downtown in the 1990s — unappealing and deserted. It opened to the public in March 1999 with a wide path running alongside the river and a lot of green space.
The park today has plenty of picnic tables and a bicycling, walking and jogging trail that connects it to the River Market, which also has undergone a development renaissance.
The new streetcar, which began operating in May, brings more people to the River Market from Crown Center and downtown to eat, drink, shop and have fun without worrying about where to park.
Young people living in the area use Berkley Riverfront Park every day to exercise, walk dogs, picnic during lunch and dinnertime, and play games in the open green space. The park also is the site of special events.
The sand volleyball courts and kickball fields will be at the east end of the park near the Isle of Capri Casino. LED lights will illuminate the new courts for nighttime play. Port KC is wise to work with KC Crew to increase the attractions in the park for young adults.
A new leisure sports area will enable people to play badminton, croquet or other outdoor games in the park. Sand volleyball courts have been popular attractions in other areas.
They should be equally appealing at Berkley Riverfront Park. In addition to the bar and restaurants that are planned, truck vendors also might consider setting up in the area to offer people refreshments.
In the future, the riverfront is expected to see more housing and retail development with ample parking. That will help make the area even more attractive for young urban professionals and empty nesters in the suburbs wanting to move into the city.