KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One day after Missouri approved recreational marijuana, developers are already rolling out ambitious plans to create a new entertainment district that allows people to consume marijuana.
It’s called the Smokey River Entertainment District and the plan is for it to be built in the small village of River Bend, Missouri along the Missouri River, north of Independence.
“You go to any music venue throughout the United States, cannabis has been a part of it whether you know it or not, whether it was legal or illegal,” said Besa Hospitality Group VP of Operations Marketing Joey Pintozzi.
That’s why Pintozzi says it makes sense to turn the mostly unused land north of the Missouri River into a massive entertainment district with wedding venues, an amphitheater, clubs, restaurants, and spots for people to consume recreational marijuana.
“It’s normalizing cannabis in everyday life,” Pintozzi said.
Pintozzi and entrepreneur Jack Mitchell are already involved in Missouri’s medical marijuana industry. After Missouri approved the transition to recreational use, they’re pushing this massive project on an ambitious project, trying to complete small developments by Spring 2023.
Mitchell expects the first phase to cost between $30-50 million to get the space ready for smaller events in the spring. He hopes that gathers interest, leading to future development that could cost considerably more.
It’s much more likely to happen on a fast timeline in River Bend because that community is so unique.
“The [Missouri] River used to go down there and up and around there, that area became a village back in the early 1950s or somewhere around there, which has its own government and its own residents,” Mitchell said.
There are fewer than 10 of those residents in the 2,000-acre village, allowing Pintozzi and Mitchell to quickly make progress getting the local government on board with their plans.
Mitchell admits it would take much more time in larger cities with more municipal responsibilities and residents who might raise issues with the project and its cannabis components.
“Those are things that we can overcome here without those mitigation efforts because we don’t have those large residential communities, we don’t have those vested interests,” Mitchell said. “We have a blank slate here.”
The plan is to start clearing out trees in the next few months to set the stage for the festival grounds and the first few buildings.
“The 291 corridor, which is where we’re at, has been searching for an identity forever,” said Bill Haman, who lives in the small town of Sugar Creek, which controls some of the land where the district will eventually build a river walk.
He says it could help draw more people to small communities who otherwise might never make it there.
“Plus, Sugar Creek is going to get a 40-acre [river walk] park out of it,” Haman said. “This land we’ve had since 1949 and we’ve ignored it.”
Mitchell says they’ll have a big parking lot to make it easy to get to but preventing impaired driving is going to be a big focus. He says ride share, busses, and other safety measures will be designed into the project.