Steve Rose

May 16, 2014

Out with the old, perhaps in with the new

If the single KCI terminal went before a vote of the people today, it is also quite predictable it would go the way of the translational research sales tax — to a stunning defeat.

The recommendation by the 24-member KCI Advisory Board was predictable:

Dump what we have and erect a new, single terminal.

If the single terminal went before a vote of the people today, it is also quite predictable it would go the way of the translational research sales tax — to a stunning defeat.

But, if it ever does go to a vote of the citizens of Kansas City, it likely will be about two years from now. There are lots of hoops to jump through first.

A lot of attitudes can be shaped in that time. It is not implausible that skeptics like me (I don’t have a vote because I don’t live in Kansas City — although I would pay higher ticket prices), could be persuaded to change their minds.

The advantage of a campaign for a single-terminal proposal over a research tax is that you can have stunning drawings of what it would look like, inside and out. That and a million-dollar campaign could go a long way toward shifting skeptics into believers.

The pictures I envision would not only be of a wow-building from the outside that would really capture the imagination.

It would also be a series of drawing and schematics that would show precisely where security would be; where baggage claim would be; where visitors could meet arrivals; where cars would be parked, relative to the terminal — every aspect that would demonstrate that a new terminal could be just as convenient as the current configuration.

Frankly, I doubt that any new terminal could ever be as convenient.

It is difficult to imagine how a single security point would not have longer lines than the decentralized security we have now. It is difficult to imagine how one could get to baggage claim from the gate faster than the two minutes or less it now takes. It is difficult to imagine how a new, single terminal would allow for meeting arrivals just as they come out of the gate.

But perhaps I, and others, can be proved wrong.

Maybe, just maybe, there are ways to keep the convenience and, at the same time, add the amenities we all recognize are lacking in the current terminals. Those deficiencies do include a lack of restaurants and shopping, cramped quarters in the departure lounge, inadequate restrooms in the departure area, and the lack of space and outlets to hook up your iPad or laptop.

I, for one, am going to struggle to keep an open mind.

I just love the convenience of getting in and out of our present terminals, plain and simple.

And then there is the other big issue: Cost.

The number $1.2 billion is thrown around for a single terminal. Who knows? It could be hundreds of millions of dollars more than that very rough estimate. It could be double.

But, to be fair, we also do not know the precise number of what it would cost to repair and improve the present facilities. Rough estimates have it as half as much as a new terminal. But, again, it could be way more than that.

It is doubtful the actual bids will come in less. They never do.

I am not a hard-liner when it comes to choices like this. I do not have enough information to form a hardcore decision. My gut tells me to fix up what we have. But my gut is not where my decision should come from.

So much more is needed in the way of information. The comprehensive meetings between city and airport officials and the airlines will be very pivotal. If we hear that ticket prices will jump significantly, it could be a deal-killer, both for the airlines and for citizens.

It could be that a single terminal makes the most sense, if it truly can retain the convenience. On the other hand, what we have in the way of convenience is pretty terrific for the flying public.

We’ll do a wait-and-see at this point. That’s the only fair approach.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to

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