Council moves toward single terminal plan for KCI

A rendering of the new single airport terminal being discussed for KCI.

The new planning study for a $1.2 billion Kansas City airport made its debut Thursday before the full city council.

It is up for a vote next week, but council members spoke in favor of it after an intense round of questioning.

The plan alters a preliminary one approved in 2008 and would be the first step toward hiring architects and constructing the single terminal airport to replace the three at KCI.

“In five years, we could be having a ribbon cutting,” said Aviation Director Mark VanLoh.

He and consultant Mark Perryman, president and CEO of Landrum & Brown, presented the case for a new airport.

Among their points:

KCI with its three terminals and 16 security gates is inefficient in terms of energy use and function. It discourages direct flights to other cities and works against the airport becoming a regional hub.

The number of air passengers there is down by 1.5 million since 2007 and down by 2 million since 2001.

The current terminals are obsolete and cannot be upgraded, said Perryman. “You have a physical plant today that can’t be expanded and the infrastructure below it and through it can’t be brought up to modern standards.”

Under the new plan, passengers would have extensive parking and could pass through one security gate and have access to far more restaurants, shops and other amenities.

The new airport would open with 37 gates, could be expanded for up to 60 and could handle four international flights at a time (opposed to one now).

Some councilmembers criticized advocates of the new for attacking the current airport as inconvenient, saying citizens did not buy that.

“It’s still an awfully convenient airport – it’s one of the best in the country on that,” said Councilman John Sharp. “But there are good reasons we want to do a new terminal and we need to focus on that.”

Councilman Scott Taylor cautioned against the attack on convenience, saying “it shows maybe we’re a little out of touch with the public.”

Mayor Sly James said KCI is not always convenient, especially when he is waiting in long lines there in the early morning.

In terms of financing, Perryman said that about $300 million of the $1.2 billion is likely from a federal fund and the rest could be raised without sales or property tax increases. The money would come from things like airport parking and rental cars, concessions and fees, he said, which could be used to back bonds.

His report says that going to one terminal would save 15 percent in operating costs and that four times the current dining and retail space would increase concession revenue.

VanLoh suggested a whimsical Kansas City touch: “In the arrivals area, we want to pump in the barbeque smell.”

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