St. Louis has the Arch. Seattle has the Space Needle. New York has the Statue of Liberty.
And now Tom Overby wants to create a monument for his hometown of Kansas City, Kan.: a 650-foot-tall tornado — 45 feet taller than the Space Needle, 20 feet taller than the Arch and 345 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty — that would anchor a tourism district with a theme based on The Wizard of Oz.
The giant tornado "would be a state landmark," said Overby, whose nonprofit development company Avenue Area Inc. has been working for years to spruce up down-at-the-heels Kansas City.
As Overby envisions it, visitors could take an elevator to the top, where they could eat at a restaurant and enjoy the view. The area surrounding the tornado would include buildings made to look like they were destroyed by a twister. Inside those buildings would be gift shops. The base of the tornado would include a museum with information on the history and science of twisters.
"I think Kansas can really capitalize on using something that it's known for, and building a structure of this magnitude would certainly be a draw," Overby said.
But the twister is still far from becoming a reality.
Don Denney, a spokesman for the governments of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., is reserving judgment until state officials and local residents react.
"It's obviously an off-the-wall concept," Denney said. "It definitely brings chuckles if not full-out laughter when people first hear about it, but I suppose the same thing was done when they first built the Arch."
There's a risk that the project could offend people who have suffered from tornadoes.
"I don't think that would be a problem. It's not a problem with me," said Paul Dary, whose 81-year-old brother, Ralph Dary, was the only Kansas City area fatality during a spate of powerful May tornadoes that scoured the Midwest. Dary would like to see a plaque honoring tornado victims as part of the plan.
Overby is hoping government officials will endorse the project, and says he has investors lined up to fund the projected $50 million cost for the project.
Architecture experts said the impact of a giant tornado that would loom over the city's downtown wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea.
Richard Sommer, architect, associate professor and director of urban design at the Harvard Design School, said that as part of a network of attractions and art and entertainment venues "this could be a boon to downtown," but added that people probably won't want to live or work near the structure.