Kansas City mayor mulls naming KCI terminal for Martin Luther King Jr.

The City of Kansas City is flirting with the idea of naming the new one-terminal KCI Airport after Martin Luther King Jr. — sort of.

A special committee working toward finding a way to honor the memory of civil rights leader King has suggested several options over the last few months, including renaming The Paseo, a historic boulevard through midtown that was named in honor of Paseo De La Reforma in Mexico City. More recently, the committee suggested renaming 63rd Street near Raytown for King, or naming the new KCI in his honor.

Kansas City mayor Sly James said the new terminal alone could be named for King, thus creating the MLK Terminal at KCI. However, such an endeavor would pose several challenges, including regulatory ones, and could take several months.

The final decision would be in the hands of the city council.

The Kansas City Aviation Department has stated that renaming the airport in its entirety would confuse people and limit the city’s ability to market the Kansas City airport as an actual part of Kansas City.

Additionally, a new name would need to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Another hurdle to efforts to rename anything in Kansas City for King is the King family itself, who owns the rights to his name and often charges fees for use of the name. In 2007, approximately $760,000 was paid to the firm managing the King license to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Work on the new 39-gate terminal at KCI is expected to begin early next year, with the new terminal scheduled to open in late 2021. Voters overwhelmingly approved construction of the one-terminal design in 2017, after decades of discussions on the future of the aging three-terminal airport.