OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- An iconic, long-standing event center in Overland Park is now closed for good.
The Ritz Charles is a massive 34,000 square foot space with four ballrooms. It announced Monday it would be closing immediately, putting dozens of upcoming events in limbo.
The facility had consistenly been ranked among the top event spaces in the Kansas City area for years. The meals, service and decor, all among reasons the New Theatre Scholarship Guild has selected the venue to hold its biggest annual fundraiser, "Derby Day."
"A lot of work goes into it. We have a silent auction with over 60 items. It’s a really big deal so we’ll get 120-150 people there," said Gary Krings, president of the New Theatre Scholarship Guild.
The guild uses money raised at Derby Day to give $3,000 scholarships to 15 area fine arts college students. The group was stunned to learn the Ritz Charles was closing down permanently, just days before this year's event.
"We kind of went into panic mode," said Krings.
The guild learned of the shut down from Gardner Edgerton High School, which was set to host 600 students for prom a the Ritz Charles Saturday night.
"Just fact the kids were a target for a business to do that to them is just not okay," Kim LeRoy, Gardner Edgerton Parent.
LeRoy has two kids and an exchange student from Italy, who have all been planning for prom night for months.
"Prom is kind of the pinnacle of the school year for a lot of kids in the social scene...and what a tremendous shock that would’ve been to a lot of people to find out we had to have it in the high school gym or something even worse than that," said Mark Meyer, Gardner Edgerton High School principal.
Despite the initial shock, both scholarship Derby Day and prom, were able to hustle and find a new home. The Overland Park Convention Center is opening its doors, even agreeing to keep menus and costs the same as what the groups had agreed to with the Ritz Charles.
"We didn’t know if you could move an event of that size and scale on a dime. And go with it, but fortunately it’s turned out wonderful and we’re looking forward to it," said Krings.
"We’re just glad we’re able to put this behind us and have nervous and anxious anticipation for Saturday night," Meyer said.
The Ritz Charles owner has only said the closure was due to "circumstances beyond my control." The property is now listed for sale, with a price tag over $5 million. The facility is already cutting refund checks to those who had events booked there.