KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While Kansas City-area residents wait for any information about the potential for downtown baseball, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is showing us that ideas that seemed larger than life have been popping up for generations.
“I’ve been doing this work for about 30 years and over that time, would come across these various plans for things that never came to fruition, and I started writing them down thinking that I might do something with that information,” said UMKC Curator of Special Collections & Archives Stuart Hinds.
Those lists have been turned into the KC That Never Was exhibit, at the Miller Nichols Library through January.
It highlights ambitious projects like the original plans for the World War I Memorial with additional buildings around the southern lawn or transit infrastructure and monorails to the airport.
“This is an image of the monorail coming into Union Station to pick people up to go out to the airport,” said Hinds, pointing to the image.
They show a version of Kansas City that simply is on the road not traveled.
“Power and Light, and Crossroads, there were lots of plans for those areas and it’s just interesting to see what came about and what could have been,” Hinds said.
They also offer a cautionary tale about finding a balance between thinking big and seeing projects through to completion.
“What these kinds of projects do is help people reign in their grandiose ideas because the overwhelming majority of these never happened because of money,” Hinds said.
For residents like Abbey Morgan, talk about what could have been in Kansas City sparks an interest.
“It’s been really nice, but I definitely think the conversation around what’s to come has been interesting,” Morgan said.
Much of her two years around Kansas City have been peppered with talk about a potential downtown Royals Ballpark District with a $2 billion price tag.
Similar plans popped up decades ago when planners first looked at sites for sports stadiums on The Paseo, and later, closer to downtown.
“This plan for the Jackson County Complex stands on the site of what is now the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts,” Hinds said. “That’s where they were going to build this Jetsons-looking stadium.”
When that became too expensive, Hinds says the city and county worked together to create the same Truman Sports Complex that the Royals are trying to leave.
Morgan says it would have been cool to already have downtown baseball but she doesn’t mind that being the road not traveled if it would have meant missing out on the Kauffman Center.
“I regard that as the most beautiful, architecturally interesting building that I’ve gotten to experience, personally,” Morgan said.
To help give context around where these projects would have happened, UMKC User Interface and Graphic Designer Sean McCue created Augmented Reality QR codes that show visitors the modern-day site that exhibits reference.
“To the person that has lived here their whole lives or is new to the city: ‘I need some context for this thing that doesn’t exist, what is there today,” McCue said.
The exhibit will be installed through January 2024.