K.C. Union Station optimistic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Just months after suggesting Union Station in Kansas City might have to close because of financial problems, station officials are more optimistic about the future.

Finance Committee Chairman Peter Yelorda told the station's board this week that aggressive cost-cutting allowed the station to end the year $800,000 to $1.2 million in debt, but with $1.5 million in credit left.

In September, station officials worried that the line of credit would be exhausted by November and mentioned the possibility of closing.

The station has struggled financially since 1999, when taxpayers helped fund a $250 million renovation of the historic 1914 depot.

Union Station board chairman Mike Haverty said he was more optimistic about the station's financial direction than he has been in years.

Yelorda also was hopeful for its future, but he wants Union Station to stop relying on its line of credit for daily operations. And he repeated that the station needs steady tax support for capital needs and repairs.

Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser, who attended the meeting, said he was pleased that the often rocky relationship between Union Station and City Hall has improved.

"Kansas City, Missouri, has a huge stake in Union Station, and we don't take it lightly," Funkhouser said.

The mayor said that he would be open to a tax proposal for Union Station "if we believe that they're managing well, and there is a model that shows that with that revenue source it will work, and that revenue source is reasonable and equitable."

Union Station CEO George Guastello outlined a modified business model that, among other things, suggested maximizing revenue from leases to cover operating costs. It also proposed eliminating overhead and operating costs where possible.

The station also will look for new programs that can pay for themselves.