Published February 15th, 2023 at 12:30 PM4 minute read
(Editor’s note: CityScene generally doesn’t go as far north as KCI, but when your scribe was picked to be a pretend passenger and fly Delta to Tuscaloosa, it was a great opportunity to spread its coverage wings a bit.)
By Kevin Collison
If the old Kansas City airport terminal was about catering to the drive-in mentality of the Sixties, it’s replacement captures the zeitgeist of the 21st Century, focusing on amenities, aesthetics and serving a diverse population.
For many of the 600 people who “tested” the new terminal Tuesday two weeks before its scheduled opening, the $1.5 billion facility also might deserve being called the Kansas City International Art Terminal.
A total of $5.6 million was spent for public art, and the reviews were ecstatic.
“It’s fantastic, but that’s not descriptive enough,” said Cindi Myer, 54, a resident of the Strawberry Hill neighborhood in KCK. “The thing about airports, it’s the artwork you remember.
“I wandered down the concourse and I had to stop and take photos of the artwork, it’s so well done and so representative.”
Nancy Garnett, 73, drove 70 miles from Gallatin to be a pretend passenger for the day.
“I think it will be a great welcome mat for Kansas City,” she said.
“If this is the first time they come here, they’ll say ‘ooohhh!’ Its decoration and the artwork are fascinating and there are plenty of amenities and restaurants.”
And since Tuesday was rainy, Garnett appreciated being able to enter from the new 6,100 space garage without getting wet. And to help you park, vacant spots are marked with a green light overhead.
As for the old terminal, she won’t miss it.
“There will be some people who like it better, if you don’t have to change airlines it was easy, but it served it’s purpose and it was done.”
The biggest impressions about the new terminal, its two concourses and the connecting bridge was its brightness and space, a huge breath of fresh air compared to its cramped, concrete predecessor.
The ceiling sculptures along the length of the ticketing lobby are colorful mobiles, creating a more defined space in what might otherwise have felt like a huge box. It makes arriving to fly feel grand the way Union Station felt in the train era.
The security check-in has ample room to queue compared to the long lines winding down the corridors at the old terminal. Once inside, passengers are greeted by a spectacular light sculpture, an information counter and the first of many shops and food outlets.
A big majority of the businesses are locally owned, and there are designated areas that salute Kansas City landmarks including the City Market and the 18th and Vine District.
“It’s wonderful there are so many amenities,” said Allison Schultz, 30, of Shawnee. “I absolutely love it.
“It’s a wonderful asset for Kansas City, especially to bring in new business. It’s a shining star and a great first impression of Kansas City.”
The bridge connecting the two concourses at the 39-gate terminal has moving sidewalks to speed passengers along while they enjoy the artwork overhead and the views from its floor to ceiling glass walls.
Concourse B is a continuation of the myriad shops and restaurants including a Stockyards Brewing outlet that seems at least twice as big as its original home in the West Bottoms. Boulevard Brewing has a big presence as well.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Eric Holm, 63, of Independence. “I’ve been texting my friends about how bright and shiny and modern it is. It’s like a modern airport should be.”
Holm also pointed out the wide concourse corridors, “It’s been built to handle crowds.”
One observation, almost all the amenities at the terminal are for passengers only. The ticketing lobby has a Dunkin’ Donut outlet, but otherwise you have to go through security to access everything else.
There’s also no public seating available inside the ticketing lobby or the baggage claim level.
Back to the passenger experience, the new terminal also has a welcoming vibe for a variety of people.
There’s a play area featuring a plane cockpit that kids can explore, a spacious, gender-neutral restroom, and for four-legged travelers, two restrooms featuring mock fire hydrants for relief.
There’s also a large, fenced area where dogs can romp while awaiting their flights off the baggage claim and departure lobby.
“It’s really about first impressions, and the first impression this gives is that this is such an inclusive airport,” said Tina Chace, 50, of Platte County.
“I also love the art, I think it represents Kansas City well.”
Her friend Allison from Shawnee added, “closing the old terminal is bittersweet.
“But out with the old and in with the new. This will be great in the long run.”
Here are a few more photos: