Good for the Wichita City Council for forming an advisory committee on renaming Wichita Mid-Continent Airport after President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The name change is a good idea that deserves council consideration.
More than 1,300 people have signed a petition to rename the airport after Ike. The drive was spearheaded by Jan Harrison and Phil Thompson of KFXJ, 104.5 FM “the Fox,” and Harrison serves as chairwoman of a group called Citizens for Eisenhower Airport.
Harrison argues that the new airport terminal, scheduled to open in early 2015, creates a perfect opportunity for a name change.
“The name Eisenhower says strength, integrity – we mean business,” she said.
Eisenhower grew up in Abilene and went on to lead the Allied forces in World War II and serve as our nation’s 34th president. His stature continues to grow – and will increase even more when a planned national memorial is completed in Washington, D.C.
The name change has the backing of the city of Abilene and former Kansas U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who thinks “it is a great idea.”
City policy says that in order to name a public facility after an individual, that person needs to have made a significant contribution that is specific to Wichita. Eisenhower might be a stretch, though a case can be made that he transcends city boundaries.
The advisory committee also will look at the cost of a name change. Some estimates tossed out by airport officials on Tuesday seem exaggerated. The expense certainly would be small in comparison with the projected $101.5 million cost of the new terminal.
There also has been some grumbling that the city has spent quite a bit of time and money trying to brand the Mid-Continent name. But let’s face it: “Mid-Continent” is not memorable (or geographically accurate). It’s also a hand-me-down name – we took it from Kansas City, Mo., in 1973 after it renamed its new airport.
Changing the airport name to honor Ike would garner media attention and create some new marketing opportunities – though airport director Victor White wisely advised against making the name too long.
City Council member Jeff Longwell suggested naming the new terminal after Eisenhower and keeping the airport name the same. But there wouldn’t be much point to a name if no one ever used it.
Given all the ill will toward government and in politics these days, it’s been refreshing to have a positive discussion about our city and its future. As council member James Clendenin said, the name change proposal is not only about honoring a great president; it’s about allowing Wichita to be great, too.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee