Mike Haverty vowed that Union Station would not fail under his watch, and it did not.
In fact, the historic depot experienced a remarkable financial turnaround during Haverty’s tenure as chairman of the board of Union Station Kansas City.
On Friday he stepped down from that position, which he had held since 2005 during the white-knuckle days when the station was running multimillion-dollar deficits. Today the massive building pays for itself and even has a positive cash flow.
The rest of the Union Station board showed its appreciation by naming the pedestrian link between Union Station and the Freight House area the Michael R. Haverty Bridge.
“This is a very moving experience for me,” Haverty said. “I’m not a person who really likes recognition.”
Haverty, who is executive chairman of Kansas City Southern, will remain on the Union Station board of directors. Bob Regnier, president and chief executive of the Bank of Blue Valley, was elected to succeed him as chairman of the board.
Haverty was chairman and chief executive of Kansas City Southern when the railroad donated the two sections of the 1892 steel truss railroad bridge that became the pedestrian link that now bears his name.
Haverty has been a supporter of Union Station and Science City since the station was restored and reopened in 1999. Through the ensuing decade, the station hemorrhaged money, only breaking even in 2007 with the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.
Haverty, who comes from a four-generation family of railroaders and who began his career as a brakeman in 1963, promoted a business plan for Union Station that would position it as a civic anchor. He and others pushed for maximizing revenue through leasing out the station’s vast square footage.
The station’s financial situation looked particularly bleak in late 2009. But in an interview in early 2010, Haverty vowed the station would not go down under his watch.
“I did say that,” Haverty said Friday, “which I regretted because it ended up showing up in the paper.”
Union Station has ended the last two years with a budget surplus and has been tackling a variety of deferred maintenance projects while planning for the future. Officials recently announced they had leased close to all of the station’s existing usable space. Tenants include the Postal Service, the National Archives, the Kansas City election board, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas City Area Development Council and the Kansas City Ballet. Many building operations, including parking, security and custodial work, are now outsourced.
On Friday, Haverty downplayed his role while praising the work of the management team headed by Union Station chief executive George Guastello and financial officer Jerry Baber.
New members elected to the Union Station board on Friday were David Gentile, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City; Leo Morton, chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Brenda Tinnen, general manager and senior vice president of the Sprint Center.
Haverty predicted continued success for Union Station.
“No one should think we are even close to achieving what this station is capable of achieving,” he said.