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18 Facts about Kansas City, Missouri

Updated on April 18, 2014
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Kansas City is a city in Missouri. It is located in the western boundary of the state, at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. A major industrial, marketing, and transportation hub, it is Missouri's largest city. A smaller community -Kansas City, Kans.- lies directly across the state border to the west. The two Kansas Citys, together with Independence, Mo., to the east and several other cities in both states, are part of the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, which has a population of more than 2 million.

1. Kansas City, Mo., is situated less than 250 miles (400 km) east of the geographical center of the 48 coterminous states, at the eastern edge of the Great Plains. It owed its initial surges of population growth in the mid-1800s to westward expansion, setting gold-hungry "Forty Niners" and would-be settlers on overland trails leading to California and the Southwest.

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2. By the 1870s some of the traffic had reversed direction, with wheat from Kansas and cattle from Texas flowing into the city for sale, processing, and shipment to eastern population centers. In the 20th century the addition of many kinds of manufacturing activity has given the city a diversified economic base, while it has retained its role as a great inland market.

3. Today Kansas City, Mo., comprises an area of more than 300 square miles (780 sq km), stretching south and north from the banks of the Missouri River. The terrain is uneven. A large part of the city to the south of the Missouri stands on a plateau that extends to the bluffs that overlook the river, while other areas occupy lowlands ("bottoms") hardly more than a few feet above the water level.

Country Club Plaza
Country Club Plaza | Source

4. The business district near the south bank, with its towering office buildings and department stores, has come to be known as the Freeway Loop, having been ringed by multilane highways since the early 1950s. As in many other U.S. cities, the poorest residential areas cluster at the edges of this central district, within the shadows of multimillion-dollar skyscrapers. Blacks constitute about one quarter of the total population of the city, but they are in a majority in the neighborhoods directly southeast of the Freeway Loop. These areas were made the prime targets of urban renewal in the 1970s.

5. Generally, residential areas elsewhere in the city are of above-average affluence, and all of the city's residents enjoy the benefits of an unusually well-developed system of more than 100 public parks and playgrounds. Swope Park, covering more than 2.5 square miles (6.5 sq km) within the city limits, is one of the nation's largest urban parks.

Country Club Plaza
Country Club Plaza | Source

6. A balance of economic enterprises, a central geographic location, and a multiplicity of transport services are among the greatest advantages of Kansas City, Mo., and its metropolitan area. About 25% of Greater Kansas City's workers are engaged in manufacturing, and another 25% in wholesale and retail trade. Local, state, and federal governments employ about 15% of the labor force.

7. Greater Kansas City's principal commodity is grain. In the downtown financial district, grain futures are bought and sold at a hectic pace, and the city leads the nation in the marketing of hard winter wheat, setting the world price of this product. Only the Minneapolis–St. Paul area surpasses Kansas City in grain-elevator storage capacity, and only Buffalo, N.Y., produces more wheat flour.

8. Meatpacking and the processing of other foods have long been major income producers. The city has much stockyard acreage and is the third-leading feeder cattle market in the United States. A honeycomb of limestone caves underlies the area, and many of these have been put to use for the cold storage of foodstuffs, giving Kansas City greater storage capacity for frozen foods than any other U.S. center.

Liberty Memorial
Liberty Memorial | Source

9. Greater Kansas City ranks second to Detroit in automobile assembly. It is also at or near the top in the production of vending machines, farm machinery, railroad cars, trucks, and greeting cards. Other products include primary metals, foundry goods, chemicals, wearing apparel, paper, soap, automotive parts, and electrical equipment.

10. Transportation facilities are exceptionally varied. About a dozen railroad freight lines serve the area, and truck traffic is equally heavy, with 11 highways entering the city. The Kansas City International Airport became the nation's third-largest airport with the completion of a $150 million construction program in 1972. The 1,200-ton barges of the Missouri-Mississippi river system carry freight upstream to Omaha and downstream to New Orleans.

11. Foreign trade has been an important part of the local economy for more than half a century. Despite its location far inland, Kansas City is one of less than a dozen U.S. foreign-trade zones. Able to offer tariff advantages and extensive assembly and warehousing facilities, the city does billions of dollars a year in foreign business.

12. The city is also an important inland publishing and communications center. Newspaper readers in the metropolitan area are served principally by one daily, the Star. There are 10 television stations and more than 50 AM and FM radio broadcasting stations.

13. Kansas City, Mo., has several institutions of higher education, including the University of Missouri–Kansas City (a part of the state university system), Park College, Rockhurst College, and Avila College; Kansas City Art Institute, a four-year college of fine arts and design founded in 1885, and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, a medical and graduate school founded in 1916, are also in the city. Grade and high school education is conducted in a public school system of some 100 schools and in about 50 private schools, many of which are church-connected. The city's public library system has at least a dozen branches.

14. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which combined the resources of the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Art, is a source of civic pride. It is one of the largest and finest of U.S. art museums, well known for its collections of Asian art and modern French paintings. History and anthropology are featured in the Kansas City Museum of History and Science, which also includes a planetarium.

15. The city has a symphony orchestra and is the home of the Missouri Repertory Theater. Opera was performed at the Lyric Theater but has now moved to the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts; the symphony and ballet companies have also moved to the center. Musical plays are presented at the Starlight Theater, an outdoor amphitheater in Swope Park.

16. Swope Park itself is one of Kansas City's major attractions, with its acres of woodland, its zoo, and its playgrounds and golf courses. Elsewhere, a modern sports complex named for former President Harry S. Truman, whose home was in nearby Independence, Mo., has the only back-to-back football and baseball stadiums in the country: Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League, and Kauffman Stadium (formerly, Royals Stadium), for the Kansas City Royals baseball team of the American League. LIVESTRONG Sporting Park (opened in 2011) is home to the Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City.

17. In Penn Valley Park, near the business district, stands the Liberty Memorial, a 217-foot (66-meter) tower erected in the 1920s to commemorate the dead of World War I.

18. Under a home-rule charter adopted in 1925 and later amended, Kansas City is governed by a mayor and council elected at four-year intervals. The 12 council members select the city manager, who is the chief administrative officer of the municipality.

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