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Official Review by Cory Sims, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Opened in 1935, Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, Missouri is one of the architecturally coolest sports venues in the country. Built in a “streamlined moderne” style, “The Muni” was championed, in part, by local political boss Tom Pendergast, infamous for the power he held in Depression-era KC, and his ties to organized crime., p>The Muni was built to show that Kansas CIty was an up and coming city, the “Paris of the Plains”, and it succeeded, being named one of the “10 best buildings of the world” for 1935 by the Architectural Record, and one of the 500 most important architectural works in the United States by the Princeton Architectural Press.
Inside, The Muni retains all of its retro charm, with patterned-tile floors, and art-deco lighting and decorative pieces. It’s not hard to picture pin-striped gangster types walking through the halls prior to the start of a major jazz concert.
Unfortunately, when it comes to UMKC basketball, the venue itself outshines about everything else. The 7,300 person capacity is maybe 10% full, and the on-court action is disappointing. However, it is worth attending at least one event at The Muni, if for no other reason than you’re sure to walk out of the building with a little old-time gangster swagger.
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There is food at The Muni, but I wouldn't advise you to waste your money. If you really feel like overpaying for Papa John's Pizza, you can buy a personal pan for $7.50. They also sell hot dogs, pretzels, and nachos for a couple bucks less than what I would consider normal stadium prices.
Pepsi products are available, as well as a couple domestic and local draft beers. Have a beer here, then after the game have a couple more drinks and some late-night eats over at the Power and Light District.
The venue itself is awesome, particularly inside the arena area. The details in the ceiling design point back to a time when real craftsmanship was valued over flash and sizzle.
There are no bleachers in the building, only cushioned seats, which further prove the history of this being a multi-use venue, and not just a "pack-em-in" sports stadium.
The UMKC band, appropriately nicknamed "The Mob," plays a decent rendition of "I'm Going to Kansas City," a local favorite about the pretty ladies found in KC's old jazz clubs.
In the heart of downtown KCMO, Municipal Auditorium is within walking distance of just about anything you'd want to visit in the area. Connected via walkways with the H. Roe Bartle Convention Center, less than a block from several great hotels like the downtown Marriott and Hilton President, and only two blocks from nightlife and restaurants, the arena is right in the middle of all the action downtown.
A few blocks east is the Sprint Center, a 20,000-seat sports and music venue that is the younger big brother to Municipal Auditorium. Between the two is the Power and Light District and the KC Live stage, a city block chock full of of bars, restaurants, and clubs that are especially well-received by out of towners (that is to say, KC residents don't typically spend much time there). Ten years ago downtown KC was dead after business hours, but since the Sprint Center was built and "P&L" opened, it really has become a destination for music and sports fans, especially during the Big 12 Basketball tournaments held at the Sprint Center, and the NAIA National Championship, held at Municipal Auditorium.
UMKC tries to brand itself as KC's team, but most sports fans in the area already claim allegiance to KU, K-State, or Mizzou, with only a few UMKC grads who really follow the Roos. At least two people who sat directly in front of me were parents of players. I think it's safe to say a disproportionate number of the fans in attendance are relatives.
The loudest fans seem more interested in heckling the refs than cheering for the Kangaroos. Now that the Roos play in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), I think very few away fans ever attend games.
Parking downtown during the day is a beast, but street parking is free in the evenings, and there are plenty of spots within a block of Municipal. The P&L District also offers $2 parking, provided you tell them you are visiting a P&L restaurant or bar. Tickets to the Kangaroos will not sell out, and can be bought at the ticket window just inside Municipal Auditorium. Don't pay more than $10, as a general admission ticket is more of a cover charge and there's no one stopping you from sitting anywhere you like. I walked in at court level, took some pictures just at the corner of the court, and walked up to a seat about 8 rows off the floor without any ushers checking for tickets.
It's a cheap ticket for Division I hoops, with below average concession prices, and (possibly) free parking, but you'll get what you pay for. I like to think that my money was more for a venue tour, and there happened to be a basketball game going on, with the added perk of some jazz music playing during timeouts. A Boulevard brewery draft from the concession stand adds a nice local touch.
The Kangaroos is an amazing nickname, although the next time I see a Kangaroo hopping around KC will be the first time. The mascot is named, of course, Kacey the Kangaroo. Interesting fact; the original Kacey the Kangaroo was drawn by a famous artist who grew up in the area. You've no doubt heard of him before, Mr. Walt Disney.
Municipal Auditorium is one of the most historic homes for basketball in the country, even eight decades since it opened. If you have a chance to see a hoops game here, you'll be glad you made the journey.
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