Its future is in the hands of Kansas City voters, but Kansas City International Airport is a regional asset and an economic driver.
Platte County development officials came to Independence again this week to make their case for a one-terminal airport and try to pick up an endorsement. The Independence Economic Development Council board has endorsed the change, and the Independence Chamber of Commerce board is likely to take it up next month.
“The need is real,” Alicia Stephens, executive director of the Platte County Economic Development Council said Monday at an Independence chamber meeting.
Kansas City voters will decide in November whether to proceed with plans to scrap the three horseshoe terminals we’ve had since KCI opened in 1972. Terminal A would come down for a new 35-gate terminal and B would come down for parking. Local taxpayers aren’t paying for it. Funding comes from ticket charges as well as such things as parking and concessions. It would probably add $3 to $4 to a price of a ticket.
“If you use the airport, you’re paying for it,” Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said.
Stephens addressed one top concern right away.
“You’ll still have the same conveniences that we have now,” she said.
The economic issue is compelling, she said. For starters, more than 8,000 construction jobs for three to five years.
More broadly, Stephens said, Kansas City is in danger of losing flights to cities such as Wichita, Omaha and Des Moines, all of which are making upgrades to their airports.
KCI needs to be able to handle the bigger commercial jets that are coming online, and it would be good to have more direct flights – London, for instance, as well as some much closer such as Louisville. And Mary McNamara, a local business owner who has been involved in the KCI discussion, said the flip side is that if Kansas City doesn’t move ahead on this, and soon, airlines will start dropping flights out of KCI.
Stephens said KCI had 3.8 million passengers a year when it opened but more than 11 million last year.
Some of us remember that KCI was considered futuristic and uncommonly passenger friendly when it opened four and a half decades ago.
Times change. Mostly, security demands are at a level almost unimaginable in 1972. KCI’s 36-foot-wide corridors for secure areas are too crowded, and there’s little room for secure-area dining and shopping, important considerations for those sitting through a layover.
“It’s not a square-footage issue,” Stephens said. “It’s a layout issue.”
Santa Fe Tow Service, 3280 East U.S. 40 in Blue Springs, has become a U-Haul dealer. … The human toll of Hurricane Harvey, which is still hammering the Gulf Coast, is almost hard to grasp. Other effects – not so terrible in the grand scheme of things – are already playing out. Several refineries in Texas figure to be down for awhile, and the price of gas is up. A week ago, we were paying $2.18.8 a gallon in the metro area, according to kcgasprices.com. As of Tuesday, it was $2.37.5. Nationally, it was $2.34.1 a week ago compared with $2.40.2 Tuesday. Also, gas prices usually rise at least a little as Labor Day nears. … A mild social-media hubbub followed last week’s quick mention in this space of QuikTrip’s purchase of land at 23rd Street and Missouri 291 in Independence. Well, that must be the thing going up next to Sonic. Nope. That’s Richline Motorsports, which sells tires, wheels and accessories for high-end cars. It’s putting up a 17,900-square-foot space and moving there from its spot on U.S. 24. Well, surely QuikTrip will boot out existing businesses such as the DAV Thrift Store and Scooter’s Coffee. Nope. “... we are giving them time,” says a spokesman via email. Again, no publicly announced timeline yet on a new QuikTrip.
-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business reporter and editor. He’s at email@example.com and 816-350-6313. He posts business items and other stuff on Twitter @FoxEJC.