By Kevin Collison
Port KC is contemplating a beer garden and cafe at Berkley Riverfront Park to help satisfy thousands of volleyball players and create a fixed venue for other events.
With hundreds of new apartments opening or in the works on the riverfront and six sand volleyball courts that attract 2,000 players weekly, Port KC believes it’s time to step up its game at the relatively unimproved park.
“As a public-private real estate developer, having more activities here is good,” said Joe Perry, Port KC development director. “We want places for the community to do things.”
Perry said his agency is in serious discussions with two groups about the operational scope and size of the potential food-and-beverage and music venue. At a minimum, it would bring permanent restrooms and kitchen facilities to Berkley Park.
“We’re leaving it up to them,” he said. “It could be a smaller beer garden or a bigger venue for bigger groups of people. We’re not prescribing the scale.”
Mariah Shields, the Port KC marketing and communications manager, said the venue also could host smaller corporate events and weddings for up to a few hundred people.
In a preliminary conceptual plan prepared by Port KC a couple years ago, the venue was described as world-class, architecturally appealing, flexible and scalable, and financially efficient.
“This concept will attract urban professionals from nearby downtown to eat and drink during lunch, happy hour, after work and late night,” the conceptual proposal stated.
It added the facility would be served by a proposed extension of the streetcar route to the riverfront, and also serve recreational programs including the volleyball leagues, fitness classes and riverfront walkers.
The genesis of the idea began in 2016 when Port KC, along with the KC Crew amateur athletic league, collaborated to build six, sand volleyball courts with permanent lighting on property adjoining the park.
“That was the impetus for people being interested in a semi-permanent food and beverage facility in the park,” Perry said.
He added that beer garden pop-ups are a popular trend in other cities around the country.
An invitation last spring by Port KC, through its brokers, for proposals drew a large response and now the agency is in deeper discussions with two groups.
A timetable for a decision has not been set.
Perry said the potential cost could range from $500,000 to “small multi-million dollars” depending on the size and scope of the operation.
“We want to double down on the right development,” he said. “Our community here is inclusive and there’s a place for everyone at the park.
“We want to complement what we’re already doing.”
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