By Kevin Collison
Stacey Smith, the manager of the new Visit KC welcome center at 1241 Main, embraces people wanting to know what there is to do in Kansas City–literally.
The advocate of all things KC welcomes you with a hug and makes you feel like she’s hosting you in her living room, which is easy because the visitor center space formerly housed the One and Two Light apartment leasing showroom.
The space has a kitchen, couches and a 70-inch flat screen on the wall programmed with information she’s produced about historic Kansas City notables and places.
“I want people to feel like they’re coming into my house and not your typical visitor center with wall-to-wall brochures,” she said.
“I can hand you a brochure all day long, but people won’t remember the reason why they came to you…We ask people where they’re from and what they’d like to know about Kansas City”
The visitor center opened in its new space at the end of January. It was previously housed in the former Visit KC offices a block away next door to the President Hotel, but that operation was shut down when Covid devastated the hospitality industry.
Smith says the approximately 500 square-foot space at 1241 Main has the advantage of being next to plenty of foot traffic as well as the streetcar. And while she likes the personal touch, there are plenty of brochures and maps of attractions available too.
It’s initial hours were tailored to the basketball tournaments, Tuesdays through Saturdays, but will be scaled back to Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and expanded in June to Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.
Her background as a meeting planner for 30 years plotting the groundwork for groups going other places helped prepare her for the new job welcoming people to Kansas City.
“This is great for me to promote my own city for the first time,” she said.
So far, many of the visitors stopping by have been from states in the region, but she has hand inquiries from visitors as far away as Miami and California.
After gauging their interest, the visitor center can send them along to a variety of local attractions and restaurants.
“Our team is constantly finding out about new restaurants and other places,” Smith said. “We want to expose people to areas they may now now much about like the Westside.
“The more we can showcase our culture and dining opportunities it makes us a richer community.”
Smith also has done some homework about Kansas City history to help educate visitors. She prepared a series of Power Point slides for both Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
Among the little-known Black Kansas Citians profiled is William Arrington “Bubble” Klice, who was the boxing coach for famed heavyweight Jack Johnson before coming here to coach the sport.
Smith also has learned more about Kansas City since taking the job.
“I had no idea about how many downtown residents there are and about so many things happening including the new women’s soccer stadium which is awesome news,” she said.
“I think Kansas City’s time is now.”
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