Taking the Waters

August 14, 2012

elms hotel
Meeting-goers find The Elms Hotel and Spa resort awash in newly renovated splendor.

by Julia M. Johnson

Harry S. Truman awoke at The Elms Hotel in the early morning of November 3, 1948, to discover he had been elected president.

Today, following an extensive renovation of the historic property, your meeting guests can experience a stay that is just as memorable.

Now known as The Elms Hotel and Spa, the facility is celebrating its 100th year with an $18 million round of improvements under new ownership by Widewaters Hotels of New York. Originally built so travelers could experience the “healing” mineral waters of Excelsior Springs, the hotel and grounds still attract visitors with an eye for history and tradition.

“It’s a great getaway that doesn’t break the bank,” says Todd Scholl, director of sales for The Elms, which is located 29 miles northeast of Kansas City. Spectacular old trees form a sort of canopy over parts of the property, giving the complex its storied name.

Scholl says word of the 16-acre property’s rebirth is on the rise, drawing meeting and event guests from areas such as Jefferson City, St. Louis, Des Moines and Omaha. Its newly expanded and improved spa and guest accommodations are a major part of the attraction.

Expected to be fully ready for use in August 2012, the spa is being enlarged to a spacious 25,000 square feet, and will include 14 treatment rooms, a full service day spa area, grotto, soaking tub, sauna, and plenty of space for socializing. “With our new spa offerings, we have opportunities to gain even more market share,” Scholl says.

Just like the resort’s original visitors a century ago, guests will be able to enjoy spa refreshments, including infused waters and light cuisine. They’ll also marvel at the property’s underground European lap pool, Scholl says. “It was built 100 years ago with the original hotel. You can swim along the entire length of the hotel’s subterranean floor plan.”

There are 153 guest rooms at The Elms, all of which have been elegantly refurbished, and Scholl calls them “a nice mix” of queens, kings, and suites. “Our parlor suites have a separate room with pullout sofa sleepers, so there are separate quarters if you have kids and want to be able to shut the door,” he adds. “Our larger suites offer the space and amenities you’d expect from grand hotels.”

Meeting and event spaces abound at The Elms. The oval Grand Ballroom can accommodate 300 guests, and it features high ceilings, chandeliers and a center skylight. One end of the room is finished entirely in glass, and overlooks the outdoor pool, gazebo and grounds. It’s an elegant choice for galas and wedding receptions, Scholl notes.

The Regent Ballroom offers a much different atmosphere, with space for 225 guests. Windows provide natural lighting, and hardwood floors, exposed timbers and a huge stone fireplace give the space an “almost lodge-type feel,” Scholl says. Planners looking for smaller spaces can take advantage of the hotel’s breakout rooms and Truman Boardroom.

There is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, and brand new audio-visual equipment for meetings and events. For more in-volved setups, Scholl and his staff can arrange for an outside audiovisual vendor.

Other attractions include on-site restaurants and lounges, an outdoor pool, a gazebo that seats 150 for weddings rain or shine, and an extra large hot tub. “There are a lot of toys here at The Elms,” Scholl says.

Legend has it that President Truman gave up pumpkin pie and other delights during World War II, to help with the rationing of eggs. But today’s guests to The Elms won’t find themselves culinarily deprived in any way.

Scholl says the resort recently landed a two-time James Beard semifinalist, chef Steven Duane Cameron, who is devoting his talents to creating restaurant-quality dishes for banquet groups.

“Steven has hired his sous chefs from accomplished restaurants in Kansas City, and his group is top-notch,” Scholl says. “He is causing quite a stir in the local culinary community. He’s just gotten our new restaurant menu up and running, and I suspect our dining room will become a destination for the region.”

Planners interested in local sustain-ability also will be interested to know of The Elms’ focus on fresh, seasonal, locally sourced foods and beverages.

The resort has welcomed other notable patrons besides President Truman over the years. Scholl says Al Capone was an avid visitor, and heavyweight boxing champ Jack Dempsey came to stay as well.

Locals maintain there are even friendly and well behaved ghosts who watch over the current property, which was built after two previous structures were lost to fire in 1898 and 1910. Scholl says he has heard tales of a conscientious housekeeper spirit who still keeps tabs on the quality of the rooms.

Not surprisingly, corporate and nonprofit groups find themselves just as drawn to The Elms. Scholl says frequent meeting clients include pharmaceutical companies, religious organizations, arts groups, and financial and insurance firms. Meeting Planners International held its 75-person Kansas City chapter meeting at the resort in 2012, and the Stained Glass Association of America recently booked space for a conference of artisans.

Vintage auto clubs enjoy meeting and displaying their treasured specimens on the property’s park-like grounds. And planners of weddings, family reunions and educational meetings find themselves equally enticed by the property’s many amenities. The Elms also partners with the University of Missouri-Kansas City to offer a special executive leadership training program at the resort.

“For 19 years we have sponsored a weekend for counted cross stitch needle-workers,” says Kathleen Murphy, committee chair for the Heartland Stitch Counters Society in Leavenworth, Kansas. “We usually host in the neighborhood of 70 ladies. For the past two events we have been at The Elms. The staff is outstanding and congenial, and food and accommodations are wonderful. For our next event in April, we are looking forward to the fully restored hotel.”
“Our school recently held its Protocol event at The Elms,” says Shawnee Korff, who coordinates events for Faith Christian Academy in Kansas City. “It was the perfect location. Protocol is FCA’s version of prom, but not like a typical prom. Our group included 50 students and 10 adults for the whole evening, and 25 additional adults joined us for a formal reception.

“Our evening started with a reception in the hotel lobby,” Korff says. “The ladies arrived first by limousine, and the hotel provided a refreshing room on the first floor. Then our gentlemen arrived and were introduced to the ladies for the formal reception and five-course meal. The meal was served professionally, and was worthy of photographing.”

The group also enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, sparkling cider, and “get-to-know-you” games with school officials and other guests. Later, students partook of coffee and hot chocolate around the fireplace as they waited to return home by limousine.

“It was a wonderful evening,” Korff says. “I would recommend The Elms to anyone celebrating an event.”

The Elms Hotel and Spa
Todd Scholl, Director of Sales
401 Regent Excelsior Springs MO 64024

(816) 630-5500 phone
(816) 630-5380 fax
[email protected]

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