New KCI in its home stretch, to open in less than a year

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 10:57 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas City’s largest infrastructure project ever, the new KCI, is just one year away from being finished.

On Thursday, the city’s aviation department took KCTV5 on a tour to get a look the progress three years since breaking ground.

Some of the new amenities involve technology. Take the parking garage. The structure is up, and soon, lights will be installed above each stall that will change red or green to show which spaces are occupied or open.

The check-in counters are still just metal overhangs against walls.

But some of the finishes are already up, including limestone walls at the entrance. The limestone was sourced from a quarry near Springfield.

Related coverage: From old to new terminal: Process of reinstalling mosaic medallions underway at new KCI

The distinctive solid wood covering the high ceilings in the concourse and entrance are also Missouri sourced. The Hemlock planks are finished with a warm tone. Floor to ceiling windows along the concourse combine with the high ceilings for an open, airy feel with a lot of natural light.

The main connector concourse has moving walkways on both sides.

A key feature in the local eating and concession spots is the view. Jason Parson, President and CEO of Parson + Associates, a public relations firm representing the Vantage Airport Group, pointed to stalls on either side of the area beyond the security checkpoint.

“You’ll have a food hall right here with open windows. And you’ll be able to see the planes coming and going,” said Parson.

Halfway down the main connector concourse is an exhibit on Kansas City’s aviation history in a more spacious viewing area.

“I’m really excited about seeing families with young travelers that have their faces and fingers pressed up against the window watching the airfield operate, watching the airlines come and go, watching bags onto the aircraft,” said Justin Meyer, Deputy Director of Aviation.

Another thing that will be all glass is the passenger boarding bridges. Those are the currently accordion-like cramped spaces people where people linger to board. The 39 glass replacements are more than just fancy looking.

“We will be the largest all-glass passenger boarding bridge airport in the United States,” said Meyer. “It really eliminates the claustrophobic feeling.”

The centerpiece of all of the art installations evokes a fountain with moving LED lights. Why not water you ask?

“The baggage claim area is right below us and so having a fountain with water was not a possibility,” said James Martin, Public Art Administrator for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, as he stood in the spot where they exhibit is to be erected.”

Numerous other features not yet visible are aimed at inclusivity. Variety KC gave input on a play area with features for children of all physical abilities. A sensory room will be available for travelers on the spectrum. A travel simulation area will allow children new to travel a chance to conquer their fears before actually becoming airborne. The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council made suggestions that resulted in a meditation room.

“Whether you want to roll out a prayer rug or a yoga mat, it’s all good in that space,” said Meyer.

They’ll have male and female restrooms, single-stall family restrooms with changing tables, and non-gendered multi-stalled restrooms with floor-to-ceiling stall doors. Meyer noted they could be particularly useful for a parent traveling with both male and female children urgently trying to get both to a toilet at once after deplaning.

There is still plenty to do, but with a crew of more than 600, and all the structural work done, they say they remain on schedule to open in March of 2023.

“We’re going to be significantly focused on the terrazzo flooring and the wood ceilings, but finishes on the inside of the building are about 60 percent complete and those will progress over the next six to nine months,” said Mark Goodwin, Vice President of Clark|Weitz|Clarkson.

He said they’ve been to stay on budget for the $1.5 billion project, partly because they sourced all of their materials before the supply chain crisis made the cost of materials skyrocket.