KC Pieces together the puzzle with SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA, an organization that supports high-school and college programs in career and technical education, brought its 15,000-person annual convention and trade show to Kansas City during the third week in June for 21 consecutive years. Given that the organization’s event is highly complex, SkillsUSA’s confidence in the Kansas City meetings and hospitality community for all these years speaks volumes.

Here are just a few elements demonstrating how the SkillsUSA annual event is truly a puzzle that requires close coordination between the convention planners, Visit KC and Kansas City’s meetings and hospitality suppliers:

  • 30,000 room nights consumed over a seven-day period, with 6,000 used on peak night
  • Nearly 20 hotels used within downtown and on the edges of the city, requiring several dozen buses to continuously transport attendees to and from the 12 venues used for the event’s 100+ seminars for students, parents, and guidance counselors; for the 100+ student competitions in various disciplines; and for the 80,000-s.f. trade show that connects attendees with companies in several industries

Shelly Coates, associate director of conference management for SkillsUSA, has led the coordination of this annual gathering over these past 21 years. She notes that, “the system we have in place in Kansas City really works, and Visit KC has partnered so well with our leadership every year to achieve that.” For instance, Visit KC officials consistently make a strong effort to get to know SkillsUSA’s leadership at the individual state level. “Those are the folks who oversee attendees from their state, and they handle the A to Z of logistics for their attendees. The bureau’s relationship with those state directors is very helpful and much appreciated.”

For the education and networking portions of the convention, SkillsUSA utilizes a variety of meeting and event spaces downtown. For seminars and competitive events, “we use not only the convention center but we max out the spaces at several meetings-focused hotels that are near the center,” Coates says. For its largest gatherings, the group convenes on the floor of the 10,500-seat Municipal Auditorium as well as the 19,000-seat Kemper Arena. “We even use the space at a few community colleges nearby,” she adds. 

And to reward attendees for their focus and hard work during the event, Coates takes advantage of the impressive variety of entertainment options Kansas City offers in order to create memorable experiences for everyone. The group makes use the Power & Light District—the huge, open-air, high-roofed promenade that is the city’s main dining and entertainment hub—as well as The College Basketball Experience (CBE) right next door to the district. 

Connected by a grand lobby to the massive Sprint Center arena, The CBE is a 41,500-s.f. facility that houses the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. But that’s not all; with playing areas that offer various basketball-related games and challenges, The CBE offers an active, exciting experience for basketball junkies and casual observers alike. And to close out the convention, SkillsUSA also spends one afternoon at Worlds of Fun, a huge amusement park just 20 minutes from downtown. 

Overall, says Coates, “I have to credit Visit KC for a huge amount of assistance with the facility and travel logistics, plus all the other details that went into coordinating the many elements of our annual event.”  

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