When 80,000 people attend the new American Motorcycle Association Super Bike event at Topeka’s Heartland Park racing facility this month, the city of 121,000 will be ready.
“This national event will use every room in town over a three- or four-day period, but we handle groups this large each year when the O’Reilly Summer Nationals drag races are held here,” said Olivia Simmons, president of Visit Topeka.
Sports have always been big business in Topeka, where community and corporate support have helped develop the restaurants, hotels and venues necessary to accommodate this lucrative market.
Kansas’ capital city has built and renovated several premier sports facilities in recent years, and continues to do so. Next on the project list is a $2.8 million expansion of the Capitol Federal Natatorium.
“Expanding this state-of-the-art, 50-meter pool will allow us to bid on national NCAA events,” said Linda Briden, vice president of sales and marketing for Visit Topeka.
The natatorium is part of Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park, a six-sport complex that has hosted the USA Swimming Central Zone Meet, USA Women’s Olympic Softball, state championship football, and regional track and baseball competitions.
Another proposed project is $10 million in improvements at the city’s 1,100-acre Lake Shawnee recreational area, where new fields for soccer and flag football, as well as a multipurpose facility, are planned. A new baseball field was built at Lake Shawnee last year.
“We also have the 11-field Sunflower Soccer complex, where the Governor’s Cup Soccer Invitational is held each May and October,” said Simmons. “These two tournaments combined bring close to 700 soccer teams to the city for competition.”
As the state capital, Topeka has a ready-made association meeting market, and its downtown area properties work equally well for both groups.
The Kansas Expocentre, the Maner Conference Center and the 224-room Capitol Plaza Hotel are all linked, making a complex of 116,000 square feet of meeting space under one roof.
The Expocentre includes a 44,500-square-foot exposition hall, a 10,000-seat arena and an 18,000-square-foot agricultural hall; Maner Center offers 21,000 additional square feet of flexible space.
Two other convention properties are downtown’s newly renovated, 286-room Topeka Ramada and Convention Center, with 34,000 square feet of meeting space, and west Top
eka’s 197-room Holiday Inn Holidome, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Most of Topeka’s 3,000 guest rooms are in limited-service hotels such as the new 89-room Hampton Inn. “We also have a new Holiday Inn Express and 80-room Comfort Suites under construction,” said Simmons.
After a day of meeting or competing, many groups choose Topeka’s historic venues for receptions and other events. When the Kansas Historic Preservation Conference met in Topeka last month, its 100 attendees gathered at the state Capitol, which, along with the Senate chambers, is available when the Legislature is not in session.
The Kansas History Museum has 13,000 square feet of meeting space among historical exhibits, and Old Prairie Town lets groups experience Topeka as a pioneer village on the prairie. Receptions are held in an elegant mansion, a log cabin and a livery stable at this 6-acre living-history museum on the Oregon Trail.