About this damned airport — Kansas City International, or as I know it, Kansas City Insipid Airport.
On Tuesday, June 1, The Star’s Randolph Heaster had a front-page story saying that reduced traffic at KCI — only 42 of 63 gates are being used — has airport officials looking more seriously at the possibility of scrapping the three-terminal set-up and going to a single terminal.
The story prompted at least two letters to the editor in The Star, both stressing how “convenient” and “traveler-friendly” Kansas City Insipid is.
I say balderdash. KCI is the dullest, dreariest major airport I’ve ever seen, and it’s horribly inefficient as far as check-in, security and concessions. A move to a single terminal — an inevitability — can’t happen soon enough for me.
A new, all-in-one terminal would inject energy into Kansas City, just as construction of the Power & Light District energized downtown. When you’re going after conventions and out-of-town visitors, you have to get people’s attention the moment they come off the jetway and take in their new, temporary surroundings.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the people who prattle on about KCI’s convenience are among those who complain about continued references to Kansas City’s “cowtown” roots. Well, I think we should be proud of our heritage and play it up. It’s distinctive, and it’s us. But it doesn’t mean we’re dull and dowdy.
That cowtown past is part of what piqued my curiosity about Kansas City when I pulled into town — driving my ’59 white Pontiac — in the fall of 1969. I remember going downtown to the Towne Cinema, I believe it was, and seeing the John Wayne movie “True Grit.” Maybe it was the movie and maybe it was just me — young and single and on the cusp of life on my own — but as I stood on the street later that afternoon and watched people pour out of the office buildings, I got a sense of a city with a pulse, a city where you could have a good time and set your own pace.
But that’s not the sense that travelers get when they arrive at KCI, is it? No. You step off the plane and into the terminal and you’re usually hit with the sight of a nearly empty concourse and the sounds of luggage wheels on marble. It doesn’t exactly cultivate a sense of action and excitement.
That’s what I want my city to have — a sense of excitement. As people get off the plane and check out their surroundings, I want them to be thinking, “All right, now, this is looking promising. What adventures are in store in this former cowtown?”