Loews Exec Says Unfinished Hotel Bringing Fresh Business to Downtown

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Dignitaries at the Loews Convention Hotel topping-off ceremony watch final beam hoisted to top of 24-story project.

By Kevin Collison

A top Loews executive attending the topping off of his firm’s 24-story convention hotel project Wednesday said its bringing fresh business to Kansas City, downplaying concerns about filling a surge in new downtown hotel rooms.

Alexander Tisch, executive vice president of Loews Hotels & Co., said he was familiar with the recent JLL report commissioned by VisitKC that observed the “increased inventory will have a destabilizing effect on the Kansas City destination market.”

The $322.7 million Loews Kansas City Convention Hotel is part of a hotel construction boom that will add 2,400 rooms to the downtown inventory over the next couple years, according to a tally of new projects by CitySceneKC.

In an interview last December, Jason Fulvi, Visit KC president and CEO, said downtown was reaching a “saturation point.”

“We saw the (Visit KC) study and we appreciate the work done,” Tisch said.

“It makes predictions about the future that don’t take into account the thesis of why the convention hotel is being built.

“What we’re seeing are new groups are coming into the city and want to be in this hotel.”

Mayor Sly James said the new hotel is big part of ongoing downtown revival.

Tisch said future bookings for the new 800-room Loews, which is scheduled to open a year from now, is running slightly ahead of his company’s projections although he declined to reveal numbers.

The executive did agree with the recommendation of the JLL study that Visit KC’s marketing budget be increased to help bolster Kansas City’s appeal as a destination for tourism and conventions.

The JLL report recommended Visit KC not only increase its budget, but also refocus its sales and marketing strategy.

Last week, Visit KC announced it has hired Nathan Hermiston to be its senior vice president of sales and services. He had been senior director of destination sales for the Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Association.

The topping off ceremony for the hotel going up at 17th and Wyandotte next to Bartle Hall was an opportunity for outgoing Mayor Sly James to outline the benefits of a project he championed during his two terms.

He was among the dignitaries signing the final steel beam before it was swung into place.

“When I see this building, I see a flashback to six or seven years ago talking about this,” James said, adding a sarcastic jab at his predecessor.

“Before he left office, Mayor Funkhouser appointed a committee of 250,000 to look into a project that didn’t go anywhere.”

Brian Johnson will be the new managing director of the Loews Kansas City Convention Hotel.

The mayor praised attorney Mike Burke for his persistence pursuing a convention hotel, adding that landing the prestigious Loews flag was a coup.

He noted the tourism industry in Kansas City generates about $5.5 billion in economic activity each year.

“We know we need to continue to grow that business because it means more jobs,” James said.

The mayor also said the increased supply of hotel rooms also will allow Kansas City to go after bigger events, including national political conventions.

“All the things we’ve missed out on are now at our finger tips,” he said.

During the topping-off ceremony, Tisch also introduced the Kansas City hotel’s new managing director, Brian Johnson. His previous post was at the Loews Hollywood in Los Angeles.

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