Kansas citizens packed Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal building for the first time on Saturday, admiring the sculptures hanging from its soaring ceilings as they dreamed of the day — soon — when its additional gates will be ready for takeoff.
Approximately 10,000 open house attendees visited the space ahead of the February 28 opening date. The event was open to the public but required visitors to register in advance.
While some had minor criticisms of the curb access and vendor options—KCI spokespeople said they’re continuing to listen to the feedback—most seemed to think the addition was a success.
After breaking ground in March 2019, the 1.1 million-square-foot facility built to replace the airport’s aging three-terminal configuration is the largest infrastructure project the city has ever completed. The new addition remained within budget by $1.5 billion, according to KCI spokesman Joe McBride.
The 40 terminal gates have the option to expand to 50 gates in the future. Its 6,200-space parking structure includes curb spaces for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
During Saturday’s open house, attendees explored the terminal via a self-guided tour, passing numerous selfie and local spots along the way.
The new KCI experience
As customers enter the check-in area, they are greeted by large halls and tall windows. Above, colored metal wires whirl and descend from the ceiling.
Nick Cave’s “The Air Up There” is one of the many large-scale works of art that adorn the terminal.
An artwork by Nick Cave titled, “The Air Up There” hangs in the ticket building of the new Kansas City International Airport terminal on Saturday, February 18, 2023 in Kansas City.
A fake fountain, shooting shimmering light instead of water, waits on the other side of security. Its architecture and interior design create a hyper-modern feel, something resident Rebecca Lawrence noted during the open house.
“It looks very chic,” she said. “I just wish I could come and hang out. I am excited for my next travel adventure.”
Dining options range from seafood to barbecue, with local restaurants serving everything in between, including classic KC staples like Parisi Coffee and Boulevard Brewing Company.
While one of the visitors, June Walters, said she would like to see some restaurants she was familiar with, she appreciated the terminal’s accessibility and liked its design.
“It seems to be structured very well,” he said. “This impresses me.”
A 635-foot long corridor connects Concourses A and B together at the new Kansas City International Airport terminal building on Saturday, February 18, 2023 in Kansas City.
New terminal, new services
Justin Meyer, a Kansas City Department of Aviation spokesman, said the terminal emphasizes inclusiveness.
With lots of ramps, adult locker rooms, lower drop ceilings and a flight simulator to prepare hesitant flyers, Meyer said he hopes the terminal will accommodate every passenger, going beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We wanted to build a structure where every single person feels thoughtfully designed and curated by the project,” she said.
For those who need to take a breather, the quiet, sensory rooms are designed to calm travelers before their flights. Family-friendly and gender-neutral bathroom options are designed to accommodate everyone.
Digital signs indicate the number of open stalls in the toilets, which according to resident David McCormick are much more spacious than in the older terminals. In fact, everything in the new terminal is bigger.
“You can actually walk around and stretch your legs,” she said.
For parents hoping to tire their kids out before their flight, there’s an airplane-shaped playground between the gates, with a sign saying it’s for all ages and abilities.
A business center calms outside noise and is meant to be an ideal meeting place.
The doors to the Lego store, Made in Kansas City Marketplace and the upscale Delta Sky Club — including an upscale bar with patio seating — remained closed Saturday, but visitors have expressed their excitement at their opening.
‘Cherry on the cake’
Annie Parsons, one of the open house attendees, travels frequently for work and said she is excited to fly out of the terminal. While she liked being able to pull up so easily in front of the old terminal, she said the endless amenities and beauty made up for it.
“It makes me excited to welcome friends who come here for a visit,” she said. “There are so many amazing things going on in the city right now, and the airport is just the icing on the cake.”
Over the intercom, the voice of Mayor Quinton Lucas cheerily greeted visitors to the vibrant and grand KCI.
Saturday’s open house took years, and it’s an exciting day for Meyer.
“It’s been so refreshing to see the faces of people seeing it for the first time: the awe and wonder, the appreciation of the art… We’re really happy with what we’ve done so far,” he said.