The Municipal Auditorium, nicknamed the Municipal, is a historic event center in Kansas City. The Art Deco structure was built in the 1930s as part of a Ten Year Plan to revive the city’s economy with construction jobs and new public buildings. Over the decades it has hosted many community and national events, including a number of basketball tournaments. Today it is part of the overall Kansas City Convention Center Complex.
The first convention
hall in Kansas City was built and opened in February 1899. It was short lived,
and burned to the ground in April 1900. Just months later a replacement hall
was constructed in time for the city to host the Democratic National Convention.
It soon became clear that the hall was not large enough to suit the city’s
needs, but voters rejected bonds to build a new one several times over the
following years. In the early 1930s a Ten Year Plan was proposed to construct a
series of public facilities in an effort to revive the city’s ailing fortunes
during the Great Depression. The plan would provide jobs to many unemployed
workers and create new buildings, including a municipal auditorium, city hall,
and a county courthouse, to modernize the city and propel it forward. Much of the planning and support for the
project was organized by the local political machine of Tom Pendergast. A $40
million bond for the Ten Year Plan was passed overwhelmingly in a special
election in 1931.
Auditorium was the first building to be constructed under the Ten Year Plan,
and work began almost immediately after the bond was passed. Originally
scheduled to be built in one year, the auditorium took six years to build and
was $2 million over its $4.5 million budget. Two separate architectural firms
were commissioned to design the Municipal Auditorium. The firm of Gentry,
Voskamp & Neville handled the overall structure of the facility, while the
firm of Hoit, Price, and Barnes designed the heating, air conditioning, and
ventilation infrastructure. The auditorium was created in what is now known as
the Streamline Moderne style of Art Deco architecture. The eleven-story
structure was made primarily with limestone and stretched as wide as a city
block. The Municipal Auditorium consists of four venues; a 10,000 seat arena,
an exhibition hall, a music hall, and a little theater for smaller events. The
exterior features decorations such as medallions, friezes, and flag poles.
Auditorium was formally dedicated in a ceremony on October 13, 1936, with
President Franklin Roosevelt delivering the keynote address. Over the years it
has hosted countless sporting events, concerts, speeches, rallies, dances,
plays, meetings, and trade shows. Basketball games have notably been one of the
most popular events at the Municipal. The arena hosted nine NCAA basketball
championship games, and today it hosts both the Mid-America Intercollegiate
Athletics Association tournament as well as the NAIA Men’s Division I
Basketball National Tournament. It is currently home to teams such as the UMKC
Kangaroos, the Kansas City Roller Warriors, and the Kansas City Tornados. In
recent years the Municipal Auditorium has undergone renovations twice, in 2007
and 2013. The changes include electrical upgrades, new seating, more ADA accessibility,
and increased stage room.