The first Convention Hall no longer stands, but it paved the way for the current Convention Center that spans eight city blocks and boasts a variety of spaces to accommodate events from UMKC basketball games to car shows.
Convention Hall opened on February 22, 1899 with a performance by John Phillip Sousa’s band. It hosted other notable guests before burning to the ground in April 1900, just three months before the Democratic National Convention was slated to be held at the venue.
The community banded together to raise funds and complete a brand new building to replace the Convention Hall in time to host the Democratic National Convention. After opening the second Convention Center just in time for the Democratic National Convention it went on to host more notable events, including a Republican National Convention, before being replaced by the Municipal Auditorium.
The Municipal Auditorium, built in 1934, was more upscale and larger than the Convention Hall it replaced. Today, events hosted at one of Municipal Auditorium’s four venues – Music Hall, Municipal Arena, The Little Theater and Exhibition Hall – are uniquely elegant, as all have been restored to their mid-century glamour.
Since the building of the Municipal Auditorium more expansions and renovations have graced downtown Kansas City’s convention complex. The most noteworthy expansion was the completion of Bartle Hall in 1994. Named for H. Roe Bartle, Bartle Hall boasts the largest column-free exhibit space and the four art deco inspired pylons that support the roof. The pylons and crowning sculptures, designed by artist R.M. Fisher, are a pillar of the Kansas City skyline.
The first Convention Hall was an achievement for downtown Kansas City, providing space for large scale events and paving the way for today’s convention complex that includes the Municipal Auditorium, Conference Center, Bartle Hall and a beautiful outdoor event space, Barney Allis Plaza. Explore all our spaces here.