BOTC's Official Guide to Kansas City and the Big 12 Tournament

Guide to Kansas City

The Sprint Center

I can't tell you how excited I am to see the conference tournament return to Kansas City.  In the days of the Big 8, KC was the traditional home of the conference tournament, first at Municipal Auditorium and then Kemper Arena.  Now, KC unveils the stunning newSprint Center, and having been to a game there already, I am confident you will be impressed.

First, a few basics.  The Sprint Center is located in downtown Kansas City, specifically at 1407 Grand Boulevard.  Hitthis link for excellent directions on how to get there.

As most of you know, tickets are sold out and are going to be very difficult to come by for those still looking.  Kansas City has developed a strong tie to the Big 8 and then Big 12 basketball tournaments, and the fans really turn out for the games.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that five Big 12 schools are within four hours of Kansas City, either.  

For those who went to the tournament in Dallas two years ago, do not expect finding tickets on the street to be as easy or cheap as it was that year.  The good news is the Sprint Center is located right next to the brand-new Power & Light District (more on that later), which is where fans of all teams will congregate before, during and after the games.  Tickets should be available from fans and scalpers there, as well as around the Sprint Center.  One tip, if you are going to KC without tickets, is to be there on Thursday when the first game ends, because there will be fans of the losing team interested in selling the rest of their session passes so they can go home.  I have no idea what tickets will be going for, but one word of warning: K-State and KU will be the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, which means they will be in the same session Friday evening (6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.).  I have a feeling tickets for that session will be very difficult to come by and will not be cheap.

Other than that, enjoy the views of downtown KC from inside the Sprint Center, as well as the sharp look of the gray-on-black inside the arena.  At the concession stands--as long as you don't have a bad heart--don't miss the hot dog topped with brisket, barbecue sauce and onions.

Update: From a reader, I failed to mention the"College Basketball Experience," which is attached to the Sprint Center.  Here is the reader's excellent description of the CBE:

I went to the CBE in December and for $10 I could participate in 3-pt
shooting contests, free throw shooting contests, play as much pop-a-shot
as my heart desired (or as much as my arm could take), or I could simply
shoot baskets on their nearly full-size basketball court.  There's also a
couple of goals where you can test your dunking skills.  (I conveniently
skipped those.)  They will stamp your hand if you want to leave and come
back later in the day.  Fans can have some fun at the CBE, go watch their
team, and then come back for some more before hitting the
bars/restaurants.

At the CBE you can also see how you measure up against some of the all
time basketball greats.  Compare your hand size against a life size
picture of Wilt Chamberlain in his KU uniform.  Compare your foot size
against players such as Shaq.

Bars and Nightlife

    For the Big 12 tournament, the nearest area for carousing and carrying on will be the Power & Light District.  Visit the Web site just linked for an idea of the bars that will be open.  Most of them are new to KC, so I have no prior experience with them and thus can't offer much in the way of suggestions.

    Kansas City has two other main bar districts: The Plaza and Westport.

 

The Plaza, although it won't be lit up like this next week.  This picture was taken around Christmastime.

    If you're looking for a more upscale bar scene,the Plaza should be your destination.  As such, I have little experience with the place, because it's not where the non-trust-fund college students go to hang out.  Hit the Web site for more information.  The Plaza is a fairly large area, located basically between 46th Street and Ward Parkway north-to-south, and Jefferson Street to JC Nichols Parkway west-to-east.

What little I know about the Plaza can be quickly summed up.  I can tell you the810 Zone is a good sports bar.  Twice I have visited the 810 Zone location down in Johnson County, and you will have good food, plenty of beer selection, and all the sports action on TV surrounding you.   The surroundings, at least in Johnson County, lean a little toward that red-and-blue school in Kansas, so be forewarned if you have a weak stomach.

Also, when you're in Kansas City, how could you turn down a visit toGeorge Brett's Restaurant?

    Westport is the other main bar district in Kansas City.  It is located in the area surrounding the intersection of Westport Road and Broadway Street slightly to the north of the Plaza.  The primary place to visit in Westport is probably Harpo's, which is a fairly famous bar in Missouri.  Certainly any 21-year-old who has ever visited theHarpo's in Columbia, Mo., can tell you all about it.

    Finally, here are a few miscellaneous bar suggestions throughout town.


    75th Street Brewery: I visited this place for a happy hour with the girlfriend and her coworkers a few years ago.  Great laid-back atmosphere and an incredible beer selection.  Even better, the place makes its own brews, and they are awesome.  Don't miss the Cow Town Wheat and the Royal Raspberry Wheat.  While you're drinking wheat beer, don't forget to order a Boulevard Wheat or, hell, head on over to the Boulevard Brewery.  It's in Kansas City, down by the City Market.

    Paddy O'Quigley's: With St. Patrick's Day coming up on Saturday, I would be remiss not to point outO'Quigley's (or Paddy O's).  It's a Kansas City institution and will undoubtedly be hopping on St. Patty's Day.  There is a location near downtown Kansas City (100 E. 20th Street), and you can check the Web site for other locations scattered throughout the KC Metro area.

Others:[ http://www.thebluemoosebarandgrill.com/ Blue Moose],Tanner's

Restaurants and Other Entertainment

    You can't talk about eating out in Kansas City without talking about barbecue.  Here are TB's picks for bbq in Kansas City


Arthur Bryant's
    This place is one of the giants of Kansas City `cue, and in my opinion you shouldn't miss it.  The original Bryant's location (1727 Brooklyn Avenue) is less than two miles from the Sprint Center, so it's a very short car trip from downtown.  It has everything you love in bbq, although I strongly recommend the Burnt Ends sandwich with some fries and lemonade to wash it down.  Bryant's original sauce can be an acquired taste, so you may want to test if before you slather it all over everything.  However, if you don't like it, the alternate sauce they have is excellent as well.


Gates
    Another of the famous KC bbq joints, expect to hear "Hi, may I help you?" when the workers are ready to take your order.  That's a tip about almost any KC bbq restaurant that should not be forgotten...you will order when they are ready to take your order, not the other way around.  Make up your mind and pay attention to when it's your turn to order while standing in the inevitable line, as the workers will get a little impatient if you hold up the line.  The menu at Gates is in many ways similar to Bryant's, and you really can't miss with whatever your favorite bbq fare is.  I happen to love Gates' turkey sandwiches.  Gates has numerous locations, the closest of which is at 1221 Brooklyn Street, just down the street from the original Bryant's location and also is less than two miles from the Sprint Center.


Oklahoma Joe's
    This will be the best food you'll ever get at a gas station.  The original location, at W. 47th Street and Mission Road, is a little farther from downtown, but still is a manageable trip down I-35 from downtown.  Again, the menu is fairly similar, although I should point out their Carolina Style sandwiches.  Although I rarely eat ribs, the slabs at Oklahoma Joe's are probably my favorite in Kansas City.

Other Restaurant Suggestions

    For those who want to spend the day in downtown, the newPower & Light District should be your home for food.  Most of the restaurants there have just opened in the last few months so I haven't visited any of them, but the Web site has a nice list of what is open.  One thing I will tell you is not to eat at Famous Dave's and tell me you've eaten KC bbq.  Check out the real KC bbq restaurants listed above.


    For a suggestion that's a little off the beaten path in downtown KC, check outPlanet Sub at 1111 Main Street, just a few blocks from the Sprint Center.  If you don't know about Planet Sub, think Quizno's...but better.

    Being a poor college student and now grad student, I have had little opportunity to test out the fine dining options in Kansas City, and thus can't offer much advice.  The best I can do for you there is to point you toward thethe Plaza and wish you the best.  Here are my few remaining suggestions for something approaching "fine" dining...

Steak:Hereford House.  We had a wedding dinner at the Hereford House when I was in high school, and I remember it being excellent.
Chinese:Bo Ling's.  I haven't eaten at the location on the Plaza, but I have eaten at one of the locations down in Johnson County.  I found it to be satisfactory food with decent service.
Mexican: If you don't mind a bit of a jaunt, head down to Ponak's at 2856 Southwest Boulevard.  Apparently they have great margaritas, but the only time I ever ate there was for a work lunch, so no `ritas for me.  For some margarita's I can attest to and a little more convenient location, tryDos Hombres in the City Market.  Heck, just try the City Market in general, at least during the day.  It's also where theBoulevard Brewery is located.

    I promised in the heading information about "other entertainment."  Some of you probably got the wrong idea about that, but I'm sorry to say I have no suggestions for gentlemen's entertainment.  For those of you who will be trying to keep wives and/or children occupied during the day, here are a few quick hitters.

Shopping: The Plaza, Independence Center (I-70 and I-470, east of downtown about 10 miles), and pretty much anywhere in Johnson County, Kan.

Culture: The Nelson-Atkins Museum,Liberty Memorial and National World War I Museum,Negro League's Baseball Museum,Union Station,Crown Center.

Kansas City Generally

I won't claim to be an expert on hotels in Kansas City because I can count on about two fingers the number of times I've stayed in a hotel in KC.  You canhit the following link to get more information about where to stay if you haven't already found a place.

Getting Around Kansas City
The main freeway routes through Kansas City are I-70 going east-to-west and I-35 going north-to-south.  Near downtown, there is also I-670, which runs along the south side of the downtown loop and very close to the Sprint Center.  The rest of the downtown loop is enclosed by I-70 on the east and north and I-35 on the west.  One other route not everybody knows about is U.S. 71, which runs south out of downtown KC and near a lot of important parts of town, including Westport and the Country Club Plaza (just call it "The Plaza" or everyone will know you're lost).  For you Texans, the freeways in Missouri do not have feeder roads.

Flying Into Kansas City
Some of you will probably be flying into Kansas City International Airport (MCI).  All I can do is advise you to enjoy probably the nicest airport experience you will ever have.  MCI is extremely easy to navigate, and parking is also easy and cheap.  It is a bit of a hike to get there, as it is located on I-29 (which begins in downtown KC and runs north) about 15 miles north of downtown.

Parking and Shuttles

Here is a link tomore information about shuttles.  The city also has a bus system calledMAX, which I hear is cheap and convenient.  

When I went to K-State's game against Florida A&M at the Sprint Center in December, we drove in from Lee's Summit, which is a suburb on the far eastern edge of Kansas City.  We took I-70 to the 13th Street Exit, which runs into downtown and right past the Sprint Center.  We ended up parking in a garage just west of the Sprint Center.  It was nice...until we wanted to leave.  A word of warning to those of you who end up parking high up in a parking garage: it will take a while to get out.  I strongly recommend a surface lot or one of the shuttles.  Here is a link to theSprint Center's map of downtown parking.  This page also has a nicesummary of directions to the Sprint Center from each direction.

If you're going to Kansas City, safe travels and enjoy yourself.  I am certainly looking forward to having a great time.  If you have any questions or suggestions, leave a comment or email me at bringonthecats@gmail.com

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