Wichita last opened a new terminal in 1954 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.
Now – 61 years later – Wichita will have a new airport named after the man fondly called “Ike.”
“It will be a point of pride for our city to create a first and last impression that stays with our visitors long after their journey is complete,” said Victor White, the city’s director of airports.
To say the new Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport is a bit different than Mid-Continent Airport is an understatement.
Other than the Wichita’s airport code – ICT – and its website, www.flywichita.com, not much else will be the same.
Right now it’s dusty inside, with a few finishing touches needed before opening in mid- to late May.
Signs need to be hung. Floors need to be polished. Art needs to be installed.
At the unveiling of the new name in January, Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of the 34th U.S. president, said Eisenhower would be “humbled and quite honored” by having his name attached to the airport.
Eventually, airport officials hope to have a statue of the namesake in the new terminal, White said.
When it opens sometime next month, the new terminal will be able to handle 2 million passengers a year, about 500,000 more than the airport does now.
Here’s a tour of what you’ll experience when you go through the new $200 million terminal:
You’ll see the sloping roof line when you approach the new terminal.
Philip Hannon, principal architect for Kansas City-based HNTB Architecture, describes the roof line as “evoking the swooping movement of flight and also similar to the shape of an aircraft wing.”
“One of the big things is just the sense of space you have in this building and the large generous areas you’ve got,” Hannon said.
The new building is 275,000 square feet, slightly larger than the old building, said Pat McCollom, program manager of the new terminal building at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, who oversees construction and opening preparations.
When you walk into the terminal, the first thing you’ll notice is the natural light from skylights and large windows throughout the building.
The glass has blast resistance, McCollom said, and it has undergone testing to withstand severe weather.
Throughout the terminal are slate-colored terrazzo floors with curving lines, meant to direct foot traffic.
“There’s an intuitive flow in the building,” McCollom said.
The ticketing areas for Allegiant, Southwest, Delta, American and United will be to the right.
The old ticketing area was very “crowded, cramped, low, dark – any bad adjective you can come up with, basically,” Hannon said.
“This one is the exact opposite, with lots of natural light. That’s another thing people really notice in the building all the way through.”
In the middle, Aviators Cafe will be on the main floor, across from the information desk.
On the far left is baggage claim. Elevators, escalators and stairs lead up to a mezzanine level in the center.
Once upstairs, you’re on the mezzanine, which will have seating for family and friends to greet travelers.
History exhibit “pods,” reminiscent of wings and standing 10 feet by 11 feet each, will tell the story of Wichita through exhibits named “Early Birds,” “Barnstormers,” “Laird,” “Travel Air,” “Expertise,” “WWII,” “Spirit Aerosystems,” “Cessna,” “Beechcraft,” “Bombardier Learjet,” “Kansas Legends” and “The Air Capital.”
Two of the pods will have TV monitors with video that can be updated with the most current offerings from the manufacturers.
Greteman Group designed the project and it’s being manufactured by Image Resources of Wichita.
Ed Carpenter, an artist based in Portland, Ore., was hired to create public art that will span more than the length of a football field through the airport.
The 330-foot-long piece, which he is in the process of constructing, will arch over the airport’s mezzanine from the ticketing area to the baggage claim.
It is made from dichroic safety glass, stainless steel cables and turnbuckles, and cellular polycarbonate. The materials create a “color shift” so that it changes color in different light. Carpenter has said that the art has “wing-like qualities, the feeling or images or memories of wings or aviation.”
The exhibits and art for the terminal will cost about half a million dollars each, White said, which in total is about 1 percent of the construction budget for the building itself.
Past the mezzanine, you’ll no longer have to go up a ramp and through narrow lines to reach the security checkpoint.
“It’s a far more efficient space than they have today and the queuing area won’t be on a slope like it is today,” White said.
A honeycomb design on the ceiling filters some of the natural light from 15 skylights above. There are terra cotta wall tiles, stainless steel and blue glass walls throughout the screening area.
“A lot of times with passenger screening areas, from a design standpoint and an experience standpoint, is those can be pretty mundane spaces where there’s nothing really to look at, you’re just standing in line waiting to go through,” Hannon said.
“One of the things we tried to do in here was to create some visual interest, more than you’d find in other airports.”
Keith Osborn, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration, says the new terminal has enough room to have a body imager in addition to four dense-technology X-rays.
“It will be much easier for us to do our jobs,” Osborn said.
Finding your gate
After getting through security you’ll immediately see seating and gates. A skylight the length of the terminal runs overhead.
Nearly every seat at the gates have two plugs and two USB plugs.
“You can recharge your smart phones, your laptops, your tablets, whatever,” White said.
And there will be free Wi-Fi throughout the airport.
While the new terminal has 12 gates, only nine will be used in the beginning. The airport is in the process of seeking federal funds to demolish the old building, which is too close to gates 10, 11 and 12 in the new terminal to operate them, said John Oswald, airport engineer.
Officials hope to begin demolition on the old building this fall, with the exception of its basement, which will remain. They plan to open the remaining gates in mid-2016, Oswald said.
Getting a snack – or a beer
While waiting for the flight, travelers will have more options to eat and drink at the new terminal.
“We’ll have better-quality merchandise and food for sale, and it will be in a better location than it is today. The vast majority are in the gate area after you go through security,” White said.
That will be a big improvement for travelers who have already gone through security, Hannon said.
“With that scenario you had to kind of guess how long it was going to take to get through security to see if you have enough time to eat before you headed out to your flight because there weren’t any options once you went through,” Hannon said.
“And if you didn’t know there weren’t any options, you were just out of luck.”
The options include a Grab and Fly snack place, Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-A, River City Brewing Co. and Air Capital Bar.
If you’re in need of headphones, you can go to the CNBC Smartshop. If you want to grab some Wichita souvenirs, you can visit the Air Capital Market.
Food pricing will be set at 10 percent above market value.
“We are in seven airports, and it’s just been our practice to present to the public what we really consider value pricing in airports,” said Edward Jones, vice president of finance for MSE Branded Foods, the airport food contractor.
“I travel all over the country and what I see in airports, generally speaking, is pricing from another planet. When they come here, they won’t even notice the difference.”
Jetway to board your flight
A glass jetway will lead you to your flight.
“There will be a jetway at every gate,” White said. “We don’t have that today. Only about half of our gates do, so that will keep folks from having to walk out in inclement weather when getting on and off the plane. It’s also a benefit for folks who are in a wheelchair, are elderly or disabled.”
Each jetway will have air-conditioning and heating that plugs into the plane itself so planes can be climate-controlled while waiting for a flight to leave, White said.
Coming back to Wichita, you’ll leave your gate and head back downstairs to the main level for baggage claim.
Three carousels with digital billboards are on the main level.
In the basement, large conveyor belts will run bags from check-in to planes. In between those two, TSA has explosives detection machines to scan baggage, and the new technology will allow the TSA officers to do their job without touching as many bags, Osborn said.
He was particularly pleased that golf clubs will fit into the new machines so staff won’t have to open the bags.
You’ll leave the terminal by walking across a covered walkway toward the parking garage.
There, you can pick up a rental car on the main level. Six rental-car companies will have cars parked in the garage.
“You won’t have to get on a bus to get to your rental car like you do at some other airports,” White said. “And the rental cars will be under cover, too, for the first time.”
Levels two and three will include covered parking. Level four is uncovered because it would have cost an additional $4 million to complete, but it could be done in the future, said Brad Christopher, the city’s assistant director of airports.
Until all surface parking is completed, outside parking will be a maximum of $9 a day and garage parking will be up to $10 a day, Christopher said.
Once all parking lots are completed, the garage will cost up to $15 a day, the economy parking will cost up to $10 a day and the park and ride will cost up to $8 a day, he said. In the future, the parking garage can be expanded to the west or the north.
Upcoming airport events
▪ Terminal Employee and Family Preview, April 10, 3 to 7 p.m.
▪ Dedication Gala, April 11, 6 to 10 p.m., tickets $125 each, www.FlyWichita.com/gala
▪ Community Open House, April 18, 1 to 5 p.m.
▪ First Flight Ribbon Cutting Ceremony – date to be determined in May
By the numbers
3 baggage claims
3 retail shops
4 security lines
6 food options
9 nonstop destinations
9 rental car companies
29 ticket counter spots
111 bathroom stalls
143 security cameras
275,000 square feet
1,600 parking garage stalls
Source: Wichita Eisenhower National Airport