May 7, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — A group of citizens have suggested Kansas City replace its airport.
The mayor’s 24 member, airport terminal advisory committee issued its recommendation for a new, single terminal. The new terminal would replace and eliminate the current design of three separate terminals. The announcement was made by the committee’s co-chairs, Dave Fowler and Bob Berkebile, with the remaining 22 members and the mayor standing beside them on the ground floor of City Hall.
Two other options that were considered included expanding and repurposing the existing separate terminals or construct a new central structure connecting the separate terminals and repurposing existing terminals. However, with 19 votes, the new terminal received a majority endorsement. The committee determined the current configuration at Kansas City International Airport does not best serve the residents of Kansas City and the visitors who use the airport.
The group decided the third option was best because of the airport’s outdated infrastructure and operating system. Officials said modernizing the airport was a priority to those who frequently use it. These decisions come after the committee has met twice a week, for the past year, on the matter.
After the committee’s announcement, the Kansas City Aviation Department issued a statement thanking the committee for its hard work over the past year.
“Their involvement brings an important community voice to an important conversation,” the statement said, adding the Aviation Department will work with the airlines to develop a sound financial approach that addresses the community’s priorities for a single terminal.
At Wednesday morning’s press conference announcing the committee’s decision, Mayor Sly James said it was striking the “do nothing” option didn’t prevail. Now, the plan for the mayor is to discuss the issue with the Kansas City City Council, conduct the necessary comprehensive and independent engineering and design study, implementation of the process defined in the airline lease agreement, and city council deliberations.
Once the mayor and city council have made a decision, residents will be asked to vote on its approval. James said if he had to put a timeframe on the matter, he suspects such a vote to take place in about 12-18 months.
James said the users of the airport — tenants and passengers — pay for the costs, not the taxpayers or Kansas City voters. At the time, the mayor said he did not know what the cost of the new terminal would be.
Ron Ricks, executive vice president of Southwest Airlines, also issued a statement after the committee’s announcement, saying the airlines “pledge to work in good faith with Mayor James, the city council and the city aviation staff on a solution that best meets the needs of the passengers and airlines.” Southwest Airlines is the representative of all the airlines serving the Kansas City International Airport.
Committee member John Fierro, also a Northeast community member and president and CEO of the Mattie Rhodes Center, said he went into each meeting held with an open mind. He added that he thought the information presented to the group was always transparent.
“There was never a shortage of information for us,” Fierro said. “I wasn’t surprised by the outcome, although I was surprised people thought there wasn’t enough information available.”