Council Weighs Construction Of New Airport Terminal

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The time may finally be right for a new terminal at Mid-Continent Airport.

Project plans were put in a holding pattern last fall, giving city leaders time to see if moving ahead made financial sense.

"Why are you guys starting the project right now?"

That's a common question airport and city leaders often get from the public. Director of Wichita's airports, Victor White, says replacing the nearly 60-year-old terminal with a new modern facility has been in the works for years.

"We've been doing this for almost ten years now," White said.

Rome was likely built faster. But seriously, we're not talking chump change. A new terminal will cost $160 million and new parking facilities will $40 million. That's not counting $38 million spent already on such things as utilities, relocating airport drive, architectural and engineering designs, and more.

So a lot of questions have come up over the years and city leaders worked on getting those questions answered in a workshop on Tuesday.

White posed the question, "Do you renovate, remodel, rehab, expand versus building a brand new building?" It was decided months ago that remodeling the early 1950s era terminal and bringing it up to codes would cost as much as building all new. White says its functionally obsolete.

But the down economy kept a new terminal from taking flight. Now, city leaders see signs of economic life which could once again provide lift for the project. "It looks like locally we've maybe started to enter a recovery and there's some weak growth in several sectors here in Wichita," Ben Nelson, of the City of Wichita Department of Finance, said.

City leaders want to know how it will be paid for.

"There are no local tax dollars associated with this project. Only folks who use the airport will pay for this new facility," White said.

"With the asbestos and the A.D.A. requirements, and all these other things, it was going to cost us just as much to redo this airport as it would be for us to build the new airport," Mayor Carl Brewer said.

The public will get a chance to ask the city council about the new terminal on June 21. The city council will then decide whether or not to move forward with a new terminal.

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