Kansas City business leaders support airport changes

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 11:38 a.m. CST; updated 1:09 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 29, 2014

KANSAS CITY — Kansas City International Airport has become increasingly outdated and gives visitors a mediocre first impression of the city, according to area business leaders.

"As one of our CEOs put it, KCI 'is the front door for our community, and does not project a dynamic, innovative, 21st century American city,'" Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce president Jim Heeter told the KCI Terminal Advisory Group on Tuesday.

Heeter said many chamber members want a more modern airport that will attract new businesses, The Kansas City Star reported.

He said the airport lacks restaurants, shops and the kind of restrooms that corporate executives are accustomed to finding in other big-city airports. Newer airports in Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tenn., showcase what's best about their communities, Heeter said.

"You know where you are," he said. "When you arrive at KCI, you don't have a sense of place."

Earlier comments from Kansas City residents to the advisory group over the past year have shown great support for the airport as it is and have resoundingly opposed the idea of an expensive new terminal.

Preliminary estimates are that a new terminal, close parking garage and other features could cost $1.2 billion. Advisory committee members, however, say they want to hear from the business community because business travelers account for one-half to two-thirds of KCI passengers.

Bob Marcusse, president of the Kansas City Area Development Council, and Bill White, senior vice president of corporate communications for Sprint Corp., also said KCI needs major upgrades in technology, close parking and to create the potential for more domestic and international flights.

The advisory group has its next public hearing on the airport's future Feb. 10. The committee expects to issue its recommendations on the future of KCI in late April.

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