A new recreation sports complex is part of a series of developments along Berkley Riverfront Park that hope to attract more Millennials to downtown Kansas City.
Kansas City-based rec sports league KC Crew has partnered with Port KC to open six sand volleyball courts and two kickball fields toward the east end of the park, which borders the Missouri River. The project is just the beginning of a series of efforts in the Riverfront area — including apartments, bars and restaurants — that offer young professionals amenities to entice them to live downtown.
KC Crew founder Luke Wade said his company is planning a grand opening party on Sunday to kickoff the first phase of the project.
“This area has been underdeveloped for a long time,” Wade said Monday while surveying his project. “Port KC is working on a lot of projects down at the Riverfront, for example some apartment complexes, and we’re excited to be one of the first ones down here.”
Launched in 2011, KC Crew is a rec sports league that’s grown steadily thanks to a young, active population in Kansas City. Last year 4,000 people in the downtown area played with KC Crew, and that number is expected to double for 2016, Wade said.
Wade, a software developer by training, also created the platform on which KC Crew operates. He sells the league management software — called League Ally — around the country to allow KC Crew to scale in other markets and other areas around the city. Wade said that the software will help Kansas City’s Parks and Rec department to manage its leagues more efficiently.
The success of the software has allowed Wade to try new ideas in Kansas City, including the company’s Riverfront project.
KC Crew’s Riverfront fields will feature high-efficiency LED lights for night play, along with a leisure area where people can play bocce ball, badminton or croquet. Wade said that if demand grows at the Riverfront location, KC Crew will likely build more fields.
Most KC Crew players live downtown and are within the ages of 21 – 35. Planners estimate that up to 1,000 volleyball players a week will use the facilities. While not reserved by KC Crew teams, courts will be open to the public.
Wade pitched the $200,000 development to Port KC, arguing that it will help bridge the gap between North Kansas City and downtown.
“As Kansas City grows, the livelihood of downtown people moving in and more jobs and things like that, everybody is looking for ways to relax and have recreation,” Wade says. “So KC Crew has obviously grown a lot as Kansas City has boomed and access to fields have kind of dwindled.”
KC Crew’s project is apart of Port KC’s phase one development for the Riverfront, which will bring 398 luxury apartment units, 400 parking stalls, and 12,000 square feet of retail shopping across five acres. Port KC said the “urban village” area will also feature a pool with sundeck, gaming lounge, fitness club, sky bar with views of downtown Kansas City and more.
Port KC has also partnered with Bar K, a dog park/bar where humans and canines alike can come together. The park will feature a two-acre dog park for both large and small dogs, a bar, restaurant and coffee house.
City officials hope that the developments will help achieve a goal to increase the downtown population to more than 40,000 people in the next decade. Tommy Wilson, an urban planner for the Downtown Council of Kansas City told the Kansas City Star that the greater downtown area’s residential population is estimated at about 24,000 now.
Among a host of activities for the Sunday kickoff event, KC Crew is planning to offer washers, giant beer pong and other tailgate games available for the public. Sand Volleyball and Cornhole Games start at 3 p.m. with food trucks arriving at 4 p.m.