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River Cruise Operator May Sail to Kansas City

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2 minute read

By Kevin Collison

The Berkley riverfront activities are expanding to include a soccer stadium, beer garden, streetcar, rejuvenated casino and potentially, in the not too distant future, a landing for big cruise boats plying the Missouri River.

At its meeting this week, the Port KC board was told a river cruise operator now sailing on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers is interested in making Kansas City a port of call as part of a potential expansion to the Missouri River.

The board also authorized negotiations with Bally’s Kansas City casino for a potential 123-room hotel project as part of its major reinvestment at the former Isle of Capri property near the Kit Bond Bridge.

Bally’s is in discussions with True North Hotel Group of Overland Park on a hotel proposal which was envisioned as part of the master plan for the casino which recently completed a $40 million improvement project.

A site plan filed with the city indicates a future hotel is planned northwest of the casino and garage to the southeast. At the far northwest corner, a streetcar stop is envisioned. (Site plan filed with the City Planning Department)

“Bally’s is working with our partners at Port KC on continued riverfront development and we will provide more details once finalized,” Michael Donovan, regional vice president & general manager, said in a statement.

As for the potential river cruise operator, Port KC staff said the firm has asked not to be identified for now. Currently, there are three firms operating cruises on the Mississippi, Ohio and some tributaries: American Cruise Lines, American Queen Voyages and Viking.

The American river cruise industry has been growing, and cities are vying for attracting what’s viewed to be a more affluent group of tourists, according to a recent report in Mississippi Today.

So far, no cruise operator has dipped their toe into the Missouri River, although that may change, according to Port KC.

A rendering of how the Berkley Park streetcar station would look. (Rendering from KC Streetcar Authority)

One incentive catching cruise operators attention would be the ability of passengers to easily access city attractions on the streetcar extension that’s expected to reach the Berkley riverfront in 2025.

“With the streetcar open, it would give access to Union Station where people could book shuttles to the Truman Library and other places,” said Meredith Hoenes, a spokeswoman for Port KC.

The type of port envisioned for a river cruise operator would not be sophisticated. Because the Berkley riverfront is protected by a levy reinforced with riprap, any landing would have to be a floating dock that would fluctuate with river levels.

Port KC has no plans for a marina that would serve other, smaller pleasure boats, Hoenes said.

“We’ve started conversations with the potential operator,” she said. “It could require city or state help, perhaps Bally’s.

“It’s in the very early stages but I see it happening in the future.”

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