Royals baseball, the Civil War and the Kansas City International Airport’s future all seemed mixed together this week. I mention the Royals because they lost their opening game on Monday in late innings. Radio broadcasters pointed out what an emotional rollercoaster the team is for fans (past years and this one). Thing were much the same during the Civil War 150 years ago or in the current see-saw fight over what happens to the terminals at KCI. A century and a half ago the county was torn apart by the Civil War. Yet spring planting and garden work would be at hand for those who had not fled the violence of a border state. In the peaceful times, citizens would be waiting for the war news to come in from newspaper accounts or perhaps over the telegraph wires. What is the latest? Is our side up or down? The fight over KCI is up and down, too. I’ve been an admitted partisan against a super-expensive, one big terminal building that destroys the current convenience of KCI. I felt like my side was probably losing despite spirited opposition until an astounding turn occurred last week. Many of us cynical about a proposal by city aviation officials and business leaders to build a new single terminal mostly granted the other side points regarding security. It’s been said from the start that security is compromised by the current design, which was built before hijacking and terrorism seemed so threatening. Also cost and staffing were alleged to be an issue with three terminals rather than one big one, like many cities now have. Only two of the three terminal buildings are now in use. But the current setup is not inefficient, doesn’t have worrisome shortcomings and may have advantages over a single terminal setup, said John Della Jacono, the federal Transportation Security Administration’s security director for western Missouri. Della Jacono pointed out that the circular terminal design and having passengers in more than one building may be more secure, according to The Kansas City Star. Fewer people might be hurt if a bombing or shooting were to occur. Wow. That is absolutely huge in this debate. Security has been the biggest driver in the push for renovations. Della Jacono was speaking at a meeting of the KCI Terminal Advisory Group. This is a city group charged with making recommendations about the airport’s future. The group was formed due to the major pushback from travelers who prefer the current design and those concerned about huge price tags to completely replace. A report to the city is expected at the end of April. Della Jacono’s statements pile on top of comments made by a Southwest Airlines official, on behalf of the carrier with the most flights at KCI, that Southwest doesn’t necessarily want increased costs from a new airport terminal. There is generally an agreement that perhaps remodeling and added passenger convenience features and vendors are needed at current terminals. That’s an option in play. But more and more, the totally new giant terminal option smells like the major Kansas City construction industry and banking honchos want a project that makes them money more than concern about what’s good for travelers. Those backing a new terminal also say they want more shopping options for travelers at the airport. They say more money can be made by the city and travelers will be happier. Opponents counter that increased revenue will not be much compared to the cost of building a new single terminal. Who goes to an airport to shop? I’ve spent my share of time watching people while waiting for flights in various airports. Most just want to get to or from a destination with a minimum of hassle, often with carry-on luggage only. People shop on cell phones more than they do airports. I hope the Royals at week’s end have tasted victory. Regardless, those who like the current KCI terminal design certainly feel better about their chances, for now.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.