The committee appointed by Mayor Sly James to determine the future of Kansas City International Airport will be delivering its report soon. I am sure that the members of the committee have looked at many ideas and talked with numerous people.
I personally hope that they recommend a new terminal, for many reasons. KCI is a convenient but antiquated facility. To replace it has been estimated at $1.2 billion. Obviously that is a lot of money.
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When asked, Southwest Airlines said that it did not want to spend that kind of money. Understandable but not based on fact. If you talk to the airline employees and the station managers, which I did for many years.
They are not happy with the terminal layout. Walk around the terminals. At times you get the feeling that there is no one flying anymore.
The concourse is practically empty. No fliers stay there any longer than they absolutely have to with good reason.
This includes those picking up someone. There is very little to keep anyone at KCI. Now the naysayers say no one goes to an airport to eat.
These people obviously do not pay attention when they pass through an airport with a modern terminal. Most of the restaurants in these terminals are packed.
Then why does Southwest say it wants KCI to stay as is? Check out Southwest’s set up in Terminal B.
If there were such a thing as a good deal at KCI, which there really isn’t, Southwest has it. In the Southwest boarding area, are restroom facilities, a BBQ restaurant, and some snack facilities.
The restaurant is not accessible to passengers for any other airline, which significantly gives Southwest a considerable leg up. Southwest does not want a single terminal because the other airlines would then have access to all of the amenities of a modern terminal.
Let us look at the other side, the remodeling. It has been estimated that to do a proper remodeling would run about $600 million to $700 million.
So what happens if remodeling were the choice. Kansas City taxpayers would spend $700 million and still have an antiquated airport.
Five years from now Kansas City will have a very old facility with still more money needed to update it. A considerable amount of more money. And at that time to consider a new terminal, the cost will probably double and the need will be even greater.
I use Kemper Arena and Sprint Center as a prime example. Some years ago, the city was trying to decide what to do about Kemper.
Build a new facility or refurbish Kemper. The arguments went on, hot and heavy. If remodeled, Kemper would attract new customers. It would flourish.
Those wanting a new facility said this would not happen, and we should move forward to a new arena. Those favoring keeping Kemper and remodeling won the argument.
So what happened? The arena was remodeled and then, nothing. Kemper was and still is a flop.
All of that money was wasted. Finally city officials decided to build a new arena and the Sprint Center came into being. It is thriving.
Unfortunately, the city is still paying for the wasted improvements at Kemper. This could very likely happen to KCI if remodeling is decided.
Kansas City must look to the future. This city has to keep improving to keep from stagnating.
City officials cannot make such an important decision based solely on what some people want today. With the kind of money needed either way, look to the future.
Look five, 10 or even 20 years down the line, and where does this city want to be? I say, “Build a new terminal and plan for the next 10 or 20 years.”