That’s the term Rolf Penner used to describe Wichita’s new Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport terminal, and the lavish dedication gala held Saturday night.
“It’s just a really exciting thing for Wichita,” Penner, 70, said. “It makes us a really metropolitan town.”
Guests who had paid $125 for a ticket were handed blue cocktails at the door, and plenty more followed throughout the course of the evening.
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And, like any good dedication gala, it included an ice sculpture of the airport’s new Sullivan, Higdon & Sink-designed logo.
After speeches from a variety of people – Mayor Carl Brewer, U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, and Eisenhower’s great-grandson, to name a few – a progressive dinner was served throughout the terminal. People oohed and aahed while poking around the building, with Masonite still covering the floor of the concourse and large wooden boxes lying about.
A little more than 600 people came out to the terminal for the gala Saturday night, said Victor White, the Wichita Airport Authority’s director of airports.
And it was still not halfway full.
“It’s a great turnout – more than what I thought it was going to be,” said Shelly Wombacher, a gala attendee. “When you travel around, you realize there’s none as nice as this one, I don’t think. For the Midwest, this is beautiful.”
For the most part, there was no love lost for the old terminal, which is slated to be demolished as the new terminal becomes fully operational.
“It was suffering from old age, much like my wardrobe,” said Penner, who is retired. “We’ve gotten new now, as with my clothes. My wife sees to it that I wear them.”
The gala was planned as part of a series of dedication events at the new terminal in April. It was originally slated to be an invitation-only event but was later opened to the public after pushback against its exclusivity.
The cost of the event, estimated at $151,749, was fully covered by private sponsorships, White said.
No taxpayer money went toward the gala, he said.
When a speaker at the gala mentioned that bit in his speech, he got a loud “Hooray!” from one audience member.