Battle to kill costly new KCI terminal heats up
The Kansas City Star
Aviation Department officials along with elected officials for months have delivered one mantra to Kansas Citians:
We’re going to build a new, single terminal costing $1.2 billion or more at Kansas City International Airport even if many of you don’t want it.
Just think of the jobs the project would create.
However, unfortunately for Aviation Director Mark VanLoh and elected officials, reality has surfaced and the battle to kill the single terminal idea is heating up.
The bottom line: KC officials are going to have to do some hard work in the future to provide real,specific proof that a single terminal will be better for Kansas City’s future than the current three-terminal arrangement.
One of the latest developments came courtesy of the Aviation Department. It has done such a poor job convincing Kansas Citians that the single terminal is a great idea that it has hired a public relations firm called Global Prairie to get the word out to taxpayers. The cost is $117,000, for now.
Then on Monday came word that a new, web-based effort to save the current KCI design has sprung up. It’s called “SaveKCI” which is at savekci.com. Its motto: “Because destroying the No. 1-ranked airport in the U.S. doesn’t fly.”
Aviation officials have only themselves to blame for bungling replacement of the current, three-terminal setup with a single terminal.
For example, here is a slide show from KCI officials on an earlier plan to build the new, single terminal four miles to the south, to be closer to Johnson County/KC residents. Alas, it turns out it would have added hundreds of millions of dollars in unanticipated road construction expenses. So that plan died.
Since then, supporters have claimed that the single terminal is needed because security is too expensive to provide at so many gates currently; that more airline service would come to a single terminal; and that local taxpayers would not have to pay directly for the terminal.
So why hire Global Prairie?
“There are a lot of misconceptions out there,” VanLoh told The Star.
But whose fault is that?
KCI officials and elected leaders have failed for months to provide compelling proof that the single terminal idea is good for Kansas City’s future.
Here, for example, is what City Council member Russ Johnson said late last year: “I think it’s safe to say that until we get a new terminal, we will continue to lose market share.”
In other words, some airlines won’t continue to fly to KCI - and won’t start new routes - if KCI keeps its current terminals.
So where’s the proof of that fact?
That’s a job for Global Prairie to hop on, right away, if it wants to provide some rational reasons for going with the single terminal.
Likewise, the city still hasn’t provided any compelling proof that a single terminal would come close to providing the customer convenience that the current arrangement does - something that it does to the great applause of so many local travelers.
Some boosters of a new KCI terminal say the current design suffers because it doesn’t have lots of places to buys mementos or food. But if these guest services really build a successful airport, one that actually contributes to a healthy local economy with more flights for local residents, let’s see some concrete proof.
Finally, city officials for more than a year have said that federal funds and aviation funds from airline customers would help build the new terminal.
But in the recent Star story, VanLoh sounded resigned to the fact that the hoped-for federal funds might not materialize in the amount initially expected.
That could lead to a public vote on whether the Aviation Department could sell bonds, backed by local aviation fees and not taxpayer dollars, to help construct the new terminal.
No wonder VanLoh wanted to hire Global Prairie: Right now, any attempt to get Kansas Citians to approve those bonds might run in to stiff resistance - and even be defeated at the ballot box - given the antipathy toward the single terminal idea.