Advisory group: KCI Airport should build new single terminal

With a broad estimated cost of “less than a billion dollars,” an advisory group recommended building a new terminal at KCI Airport in Platte County, tabling talk of major renovations moving forward. The terminal advisory group made a presentation to the Kansas City City Council on Tuesday, July 21, saying it plans to move forward with two different construction concepts. A final resolution would be expected to go before city leaders by May of 2016.

The group’s presentation made sure to point out that major renovation cost estimates were more than a billion dollars and would continue to operate inefficiently in the space of the current three-terminal setup. The new two-level, single-terminal designs being considered would be constructed on the current site of Terminal A, which is not in use and would allow Terminals B and C to continue operations through completion of the project.

Funding for the improvements would not come from city or state taxes. The advisory group reminded citizens that airlines and travelers pay for operations, maintenance and capital projects, and federal law prohibits diverting airport fees and charges to other city purposes.

Airport revenue bonds are secured based fees, charges and grants.

KCI Airport opened in Platte County in 1972, replacing Mid-Continent Airport. However, the three-terminal design has become hotly debated in recent years in terms of passenger convenience, especially in the wake of more stringent security measures. No airport since 1974 has been built with a design replicating KCI’s setup.

The advisory group concluded making a change has become necessary.

Customer convenience and affordability were the two biggest factors considered along with constructability, flexibility, size efficiency and technology. Travel forecasts suggest KCI will need 35 gates as early as 2030 and currently leases 29 gates.

The space exists to accommodate the needed changes, but the cost outweighed the reward, especially when considering interruptions to service during construction. New construction would allow for future growth while only slightly increasing the gross area from the current setup.

Proponents of the three-terminal design cite ease of reaching the gates despite the operational inefficiencies. The lack of conveniences — food, drink and shopping options — inside the security checkpoints are sacrificed for ease of commute.

There were 27 concepts considered, eventually narrowed down to four — two major renovation projects and two construction projects.

The New Terminal Concept A and B would both offer a new two-level terminal and concourses with a new parking garage. The difference is in the layout of the building. The two renovation projects still under consideration until Tuesday would have been two two-level terminals with centralized ticketing and security and parking garage additions.

The current terminals underwent a $258 million renovation project between 2000 and 2004 that would have cost $420 million today. The improvements were made in multiple phases across the three terminals and included stripping the buildings down to their bare concrete frame.