KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s been a decades-long journey for the Kansas City International Airport to arrive where it is now, one year out from the completion of a new terminal.
"There was a hijacking, I think about the week or the week before the airport itself opened, and so almost from the beginning, back in the 1970s, the airport, at least and its security apparatus and setup, was out of date," said current Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas.
Such issues continued to cause headaches for years to follow.
"At the current airport, if you have TSA clearance, then you have to walk all the way down to a different gate in order to get there and then walk all the way back to others in some instances. We won't have that there," said Sly James, former KCMO mayor.
Lucas remembers his first experience in KCI but is ready for the new terminal.
"I know when I took my first flight in the 1990s, I remember this airport that looks kind of outdated a little bit, too much like home, and so I think that while we have wonderful memories of everything that's happened at KCI, the new, the better KCI is something that Kansas City fans will love and enjoy for years ahead," Lucas said.
With the sun setting on the current chapter at KCI and rising on the new terminal, it's provided a chance for the current mayor and his predecessor to reflect on what's been a long, and sometimes grueling, process.
"I was on the city council when this project started — it was certainly dramatic, there were a lot of political discussions, construction discussions," Lucas said.
James acknowledges the years of work needed to make the new terminal a reality.
"The Chamber stepped up. KCEDC stepped up. They all came in and helped educate our public about the needs," James said. "They had a very specific reason to do that because they understood the business and the economic impacts of an airport. So we had great partners, great collaborations."
Votes have been secured, concrete is poured and Lucas says the finish line is now in sight.
"This is a sign that we're a city that's still growing and still booming, and we look forward to the next huge project," Lucas said. "Make sure that we're still building a great city and region that everybody can be proud of."
As for James, he is confident the city's future is cleared for takeoff.
"The airport, for people coming into your city, is the front door. This will be a very attractive front door that I think will have people hoping to see more of what’s inside," James said. "We're going to have a whole bunch of visitors coming to Kansas City in a brand new airport and they're going to walk in and say, 'Wow,' about the airport. And then when they see the rest of the city, they're gonna say, 'Wow,' again, and you want people leaving here with two wows at least."