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Wichita council reaffirms airport name change to Eisenhower

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at 11:49 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at 12:06 p.m.

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The Wichita City Council, sitting as the airport authority, voted Tuesday to change the name of Mid-Continent Airport to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

The vote was the same as in March: 5-2 with council members Jeff Longwell and Jeff Blubaugh opposed.

The action Tuesday was largely symbolic, clearing the way for the new name to go to the Federal Aviation Administration for paperwork changes. The name change becomes effective next year when the new airport terminal opens.

The vote also cleans up a city omission from March, inserting the name “Wichita” officially into the new airport name.

Eisenhower, who was from Abilene, served as supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and as United States president from 1953 to 1961.

Opponents of the change reiterated their criticisms Tuesday: the estimated $270,000 cost to the airport and city to change the name and highway signage, the 60 years that have passed since Ike was president.

Former county commissioner Dave Bayouth contended that young people today don’t know who Eisenhower is.

And city clerk Karen Sublett read into the record a statement from the city’s airport advisory board opposing the change. The board met Monday afternoon and voted 10-1 to oppose the name change.

But in the end, Mayor Carl Brewer said, “I could never come up with a reason not. There are more reasons why it’s the right thing to do.”

Wichita radio personality Jan Harrison, who organized the petition drive in August, said marketing the legendary general and former president will help Wichita’s brand.

“If we want to attract convention business ... having a world class airport heralding a great Kansan is one piece of the puzzle, she said.

The name change will cost the airport an estimated $130,000 from the terminal project, city officials said. The city’s $140,000 costs are reimbursements to the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Turnpike Authority to replace or change about 20 area signs containing the airport’s name.

Victor White, the city’s director of airports, said he thinks both estimates are high. In the case of the KDOT signs, White said some could be recycled.

And any costs could be offset by fundraising. Harrison committed her group and radio stations to a private fundraising effort to offset those costs. Selling commemorative bricks or tiles to raise money is one idea under consideration.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bwilsoneagle.

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