Leawood council weighs in on push for a new single terminal KCI, asks how JoCo cities can be heard

A conceptual drawing of a single-terminal design for KCI. Photo via Wikipedia.
A conceptual drawing of a single-terminal design for KCI. Photo via Wikipedia.

By Ayesha Vishnani

Although Leawood city residents are unable to vote on the new single terminal for KCI, representatives of the Greater Kansas City Chamber wanted the public and city council to spread the word on the initiative which aims to attract vendors, increase competitiveness for flights and make it more convenient for users.

“We think it’s very important that everyone understand in the Kansas City region what the opportunities and challenges are here and to be willing to share that with others,” Kansas City Chamber CEO Joe Reardon said during the presentation by “A Better KCI” at the Leawood city council work session.

During the presentation last Monday, council member Andrew Osman asked the presenters — Reardon and Kansas City Area Involvement Council CEO Tim Cowden — what sort of input cities who will not be participating in the vote could have during the development of a new airport so that they can ensure it benefits them economically in the long run.

“How do we get to that point — if we get to the point — where cities are heard?” Osman asked the representatives.

Since the airport is an asset of Kansas City, Mo., Reardon said only residents within that area are able to vote once the issue is on the ballot. However, he said, the real competition the metro is facing is from the other regions with which KCI is battling for domestic and international flights. He said an open dialogue with users would be beneficial in the future.

“I think that’s a great conversation to have after the vote’s taken; this is just getting started,” Reardon said. “I certainly would think that the proposers or whoever makes it through would be wanting to hear from everyone that’s a user because quite frankly its the users who are going to be the ones that will drive what goes on in KCI.”

Currently the new terminal plan is not on the Kansas City ballot, and the deadline for ballot language for Kansas City is August 24. Both Reardon and Cowden said they are confident the issue it will be on the ballot.

Concepts for a single-terminal plan call for 35 gates and a new 6,500 space parking structure as well as a 1,940 space surface parking lot closer to the airport. This is an increase of two more gates from the current model and an addition from the previous 4,264 parking spaces. The closest lot will be walking distance from the airport.

The two representatives said the current terminal design is making KCI less competitive for domestic and international flights. With the new model, representatives say KCI will also become more competitive because it will meet current needs of airlines.

Building of the new airport will also be an economic driver, according to the A Better KCI team. Although costs are not currently clear and are estimated at $1 billion for the new terminal, 17,604 jobs will be created “earning $759 million in household income and $2.18 billion in business revenues within the airport’s 17-county primary service area,” according to a fact sheet provided by the presenters.

The team also emphasized that the airport is only paid for by users of the airport and currently, more than 80 percent of that revenue is paid by non-KCMO residents.

However, KCI currently has the fifth cheapest cost for airlines at $6 per person. With the redesigning of the airport, that cost will go up by $3 to $9, putting it close to the 50th percentile for rates around the country. But representatives said this should not affect KCI competitiveness because it will still be below the 50th percentile.

Council member Julie Cain said she wishes the surrounding cities including Leawood were able to take part in the vote because of KCI’s widespread impact. Despite the current easiness of using KCI, she said she supports the new approach.

“We are shooting ourselves in the foot in my personal opinion if we don’t have to take care of that primary, primary asset and bring in the future of the metro,” Cain said. “We have to keep up the time just like we have to keep up with the technology.”