Independence, Missouri: An American Original
31 Oct, 2012By: Peter Francesconi
Independence, Missouri, is a place where history continues to come alive. As the hometown of Harry Truman, it is one of only a handful of cities with a presidential library and offers a glimpse into the popular president’s life. Independence was also the jumping-off point as thousands of pioneers moved west along the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails. The city is loaded with historic homes, rich in heritage and religious sites, and overflowing with Midwestern hospitality.
But Independence is also a place where history continues to be made, especially when it comes to bringing sports events and athletes to the area. From top-notch sports facilities and venues, to abundant lodging and dining options, to all sorts of attractions for families and for athletes when not competing, Independence and its Department of Tourism does all it can to make sporting events memorable.
“We take sports seriously in Independence,” says Cori Day, Director of Tourism. “We can host nearly any type of event at our state-of-the-art facilities and offer visitors a broad range of hotels to accommodate any budget, along with attractions, shopping and dining options. Every sports event trip in Independence can be a vacation.”
Located right in the heart of the country, Independence is an easy place to get to. It’s just 20 minutes east of downtown Kansas City and 40 minutes from the Kansas City International Airport. It’s also on major highways, making it convenient by car or bus.
For sports participants and enthusiasts, Independence has a lot to offer. The stadiums for the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals are minutes away. Closer to home, the Independence Events Center plays host to the Missouri Mavericks CHL Hockey and the Missouri Comets MISL Indoor Soccer teams. The area has venues and facilities that can handle virtually any type and size of event.
“We’ve hosted a wide array of sporting events, including the Brute Adidas wrestling tournament, Silver Gloves amateur boxing, USSSA Girls Fastpitch World Series, National Amateur Baseball Federation Regionals, Western Division Ultimate Players Championship and the Missouri Horseshoe Pitchers, just to name a few,” adds Day.
The Inside Game
The 132,000-square-foot Independence Events Center (with two indoor ice rinks) opened in 2009 and is a multi-purpose facility that has a 75,000-square-foot arena bowl with 5,800 fixed seats and 25 luxury suites. The arena can host a variety of sports, from badminton and volleyball, to cheerleading and gymnastics, to wrestling, weightlifting, equestrian and more.
Opened in 2007, the 70,000-square-foot KC Sports Lodge is a premier sports complex in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area with versatile space that can be used for all sorts of youth and adult sports. The facility features two full-size indoor soccer fields and one 40- by 30-yard practice area, with FieldTurf and no walls. Additionally, it has two full-size basketball/volleyball courts, six baseball/softball cages with automatic pitching machines and two outdoor sand volleyball courts, plus full concessions and a sports bar.
The Truman Memorial Building, built in 1926, is an Independence landmark that has hosted presidents, visiting dignitaries, social events and sports. Renovated in 2005, the auditorium features 4,700 square feet of versatile space with a full wood-floor basketball court, 700 tiered seats, and a stage. The facility has hosted events that include wrestling, volleyball, boxing, martial arts, dodge ball, and cup stacking.
With 11,000 square feet of flexible ballroom space, the Hilton Garden Inn can handle a variety of events, including boxing, martial arts, table tennis, wrestling and dance. The Independence and Fort Osage School Districts also have a number of indoor facilities and gymnasiums available, including the Henley Aquatics Center, which features a heated, eight-lane competitive pool, with two additional warm-up lanes. The Aquatics Center seats 350 and has a digital scoreboard, two 1-meter diving boards and heated whirlpool.
Taking It Outside
“Our indoor facilities can handle any type of event, for youth or adult participants,” says Day. “Independence also offers many excellent outdoor facilities. In addition, our amenities and attractions provide a great destination for families to get away. The popular Bass Pro Shops, Adventure Oasis Water Park, boutiques and restaurants on the historic square, Cool Crest mini golf and Centerpoint Community Ice add appeal to any sporting event.”
The large Independence Athletic Complex has eight fields (two lighted) suitable for soccer, football, rugby and lacrosse; three softball fields; two baseball fields; five football practice areas and a lighted football field; and more. Large, lighted, natural-grass areas are available for events such as exhibitions, dog shows and more.
Softball is big in Independence. The Adair Park Softball Complex has seven lighted, fully irrigated fields, an eight-station batting cage, five shelter houses, restrooms and concessions. The site has hosted numerous USSSA fast-pitch events, including World Series tournaments, and the Big 8 Women’s Softball Championships. There is also the Frank White Jr. Softball Complex with five lighted, irrigated fields that can host both softball and baseball tournaments.
Crysler Stadium is a tournament-ready lighted baseball stadium that features a grass infield, covered dugouts, electronic scoreboard, full-service concessions, ample nearby parking and more. The stadium can seat 1,100.
City facilities include Mill Creek Park, Santa Fe Trail Park and McCoy Park. The 45-acre Mill Creek Park has a baseball field and two youth baseball fields, two softball fields, and a lighted multipurpose field, along with four tennis courts. The picturesque Santa Fe Trail Park, amid 45 acres of rolling hills and meadows, has a 12-court lighted tennis complex, baseball and softball fields. Both parks offer playgrounds and concession areas. For horseshoe enthusiasts, McCoy Park features 24 clay pits, among other features. Both the Independence and Fort Osage School Districts offer top-notch outdoor facilities, too, suitable for football, baseball, soccer, track and other field sports.
Also close by, Jackson County’s Fleming Park is home to both the 720-acre Blue Springs Lake and the 970-acre Lake Jacomo. Both feature a variety of fish including bass, bluegill, carp and catfish and are suitable for fishing tournaments, regattas and other water and beach sports events. Both lakes offer full-service marinas, and Lake Jacomo has three boat ramps. There’s also the 930-acre Longview Lake & Beach, also suitable for fishing tournaments, and capable of hosting triathlon events. The Archery Range in Jackson County has served as a host site for several tournaments, including the National Field Archery Outdoor Tournament.
The area also offers some top golf courses, including the Stone Canyon Golf Club, with the only Greg Norman Signature Design course in Missouri, the Craig Schreiner-designed Winterstone Golf Course, and the Dr. Michael Hurdzan-designed Drumm Farm Golf Course.
A Welcoming Community
“Our staff at the Independence Tourism Department works closely with sports event owners, coaches and athletes to make sure everything runs smoothly” says Day. “From helping with event proposals to assisting with lodging and transportation, to helping to find volunteers and providing welcome bags for participants, we’ll do all we can to make events successful.”
Independence Tourism will also help with pre-planning, site inspections, publicity and more. “We’ll also host a hospitality table to help athletes, their families and other attendees get to know the area. And we can provide welcome bags that include discounts to area attractions.”
For athletes and others, there is plenty to do in Independence off the court or field. Of special note, of course, is the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum—which offers theaters, interactive exhibits and a replica of Truman’s Oval Office—and the Truman Home. There is also the National Frontier Trails Museum (offering covered wagon rides), tours of historic homes and more.
“Independence is an amazing place to visit and explore,” Day says. “And for sports participants of any age, we’re thrilled to be able to provide state-of-the-art facilities and venues that will make your visit here successful—and memorable.”
Independence, Missouri. Come for the history, or make history. Find out more at www.visitindependence.com.