By Heather McNeill
When the film and video production house Third Eye Productions first opened in 1987, Kansas City’s downtown was a much quieter place. There was no Power and Light District or Sprint Center. Union Station was becoming a rotting hulk, overrun with pigeons. And when the businesses downtown closed up for the evening, the streets were as deserted as a ghost town’s.
In the 21 years the company has been operating, so much has changed. So much, in fact, that when owner Russ Hadley decided to move the location of his company, he looked downtown, specifically to the Crossroads Art District, a vigorous arts community where excitement and activity had been growing. Hadley purchased a historic building ideally positioned between Main and Baltimore streets and restored it beautifully into a gleaming space with a contemporary feel. He even included a gallery space that, like the district’s other galleries, introduces the work of up-and-coming artists and participates in the monthly “First Friday” art crawls. Not surprisingly, soon after the company opened the doors of the new building in 2007, visitors began inquiring whether they could use the space for their own private parties and events.
“People kept asking if they could rent it out,” says Chrissy Raker, who was hired as Venue Manager shortly after the move. Within months, events were taking place within the building’s 5,000 square feet of space at times when the production company was closed. Since then, the space has offered meeting planners a unique location in the heart of revitalized downtown Kansas City, particularly well suited for cocktail receptions, banquets and holiday parties.
THE NEW DOWNTOWN
Even Kansas City locals may be surprised by the transformation of downtown if they haven’t visited in a while. The Crossroads Art District, filled with throngs of art lovers each first Friday of the month, has become a cohesive community of artists and supporters of the arts that has garnered the city national attention. The Power and Light District, a pulsating neon beacon, has attracted visitors from all over the region to its numerous restaurant and entertainment options. The Sprint Center nearby has brought coveted event after coveted event.
Thankfully, the city’s historic buildings such as Union Station and the Freighthouse Building have remained, too. They’ve continued to offer attractions like Science City and first-rate dining, while retaining a flavor of old KC, when the city was best known for its stockyards and railroads.
Third Eye Productions’ event space literally offers views of both these worlds—the new and the historic. From either of the building’s entrances, you can hear the comforting lull of a train chugging past, or the swoosh of wind through downtown streets. The venue’s three outdoor balconies look out on one of the most active streets in the Crossroads and on the Freighthouse Building. The location is ideal for many reasons, Raker says.
“It’s an attraction. There are a lot of cool businesses, boutiques and galleries. We are so close to Union Station and Crown Center. The Crossroads has been up and coming for so long, and now it [downtown] is revitalized,” she explains.
A BUILDING WITH CHARACTER
The interior of Third Eye Productions’ event space is as appealing as the venue’s location. With high ceilings, exposed brick and large picture windows, the building has the feeling of an urban loft, leaving ample room to be creative for a variety of events.
The building is divided into two levels that can be rented individually or together. Upstairs is the primary event space, which seats 80 to 100 people at tables and chairs, and features a granite bar, large windows and access to the three outdoor balconies. Downstairs, a studio space and the art gallery face a pleasant courtyard and convenient parking area. The studio space can seat 130 to 140 people at tables, while the art gallery can seat 40 to 50. Opening a 12-foot by 12-foot garage door can expand the 1,000-square-foot gallery, connecting the indoor space to the outdoor courtyard. The maximum capacity of the entire building is 200 people.
“The building has character. It’s not a big square ballroom,” Raker says. “Our space allows you to be very creative with arrangements.”
WITH CREATIVITY COME CHOICES
Having the latitude to choose seating arrangements, food choices and decorations can mean your party has flair all its own. Raker can assist in choosing a caterer and rental company as well as facilitate setup for the meeting or event. The openness of the venue allows meeting planners to decide exactly how they want the space to look. “They [event planners] can make it what they want,” raker says. Caterers can be chosen from a preferred list, or an outside caterer can be used for an additional fee.
Raker says the venue is “more geared up” for holiday parties, awards banquets and cocktail receptions because these events typically take place on nights and weekends, when the production company is not using the space itself. But among these kinds of events, creativity can abound.
“If a company has a suite box over at the Sprint Center, this would be a cool place to have cocktails beforehand,” Raker says. “They can make an evening of it.”
Raker describes creative holiday parties and even a casino night that have taken advantage of the downtown setting to make the most out of an event. With the bustling art scene, eventgoers can find a lot of scenery in the neighborhood that sparks inspiration. And within the gallery space itself, makes for a memorable conversation piece.
THE ART OF A GREAT EVENT
Those who have held events in the space praise the building’s ambiance and its ideal location, but just as importantly, they say Raker and the Third Eye staff do everything they can to ensure that events go off smoothly.
Gabrielle Kaniger of Bijin Salon describes how the space worked to create a fun, party atmosphere for her staff’s 20th anniversary party, which was held for about 150 people.
“Our staff was impressed with the space — there was room to dance and talk, the different areas made it fun to create different activities in each area, and of course the location and parking are wonderful,” she says. “Chrissy Raker as well as the owners were completely ‘yes I can’ about all our questions and needs. That five-star service continued through the entire planning period and certainly from start to finish the night of our party.”
David Long of Heartland Business Capital organized a 20-person sit-down meeting at Third Eye. “It worked great,” he says. “It would work even better for a casual, stand-up gathering as you grasp a full appreciation of the high ceilings and walkout decks overlooking the KC Crossroads District.”
He also has high praise for Third Eye’s staff, owner Hadley and venue manager Raker. “[They] are very accommodating, flexible and easygoing,” he says.
With a staff more than willing to make an event special, Third Eye’s event space can translate the spirit of Kansas City’s arts community into a creative event that guests will long remember.
For a closer look at what the space offers, it’s Web site (www.thirdeyeeventspace.com) provides a list of rental companies and caterers and detailed descriptions of the venue’s policies.
(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, Mo.)
Third Eye Event Space
2024 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64108