The City of Wichita and the Wichita Airport Authority began the process of considering the development of a third new airline terminal for Wichita back in the early 2000s. The first terminal was constructed in the early 1930s, and is now the home of the Kansas Aviation Museum. The existing terminal was the second airline facility for the community, and it was opened in 1954 when the McConnell Air Force Base opening forced the relocation of the City’s airport to the current site. Thus, the project to develop the newest terminal is called “Air Capital Terminal 3” or “ACT 3” to reflect the fact that this will be the third airline terminal for Wichita, the Air Capital of the World.In the early 2000s, an Airport Master Plan study was initiated to look at the next 20 years of development opportunities and challenges for Mid-Continent Airport. Physical inventories and evaluations of all existing Airport facilities and services were conducted. In addition, information on the region’s population growth potential and other socioeconomic data was collected and evaluated with respect to its impact on Airport activity. Demand on the existing facilities was evaluated, and forecasts of future demand were examined, and physical plant accommodation of that demand was considered.
The study was completed in 2003, and concluded that the existing facility was nearing the end of its functional life, and that for the maximum operational efficiency in the future, some type of major development of the airline terminal facilities would be needed. As a result, the Airport began a new study that focused solely on the terminal area needs.
This Terminal Area Plan examined whether the existing terminal could be expanded, modernized, rehabilitated, renovated, and brought up to current building and life safety codes, or if a new replacement facility would be a better choice. The analysis showed that rehabilitating the current terminal would cost as much or more than constructing an entirely new building, and it would still be a 60-year-old building by the time the renovations were complete. And, the current building site and configuration doesn’t readily permit significant expansions to take place in the future. Thus, the Wichita Airport Authority voted unanimously in October of 2004 to move forward with the design of a new airline terminal to replace the 1954-vintage facility.
In 2005, following national searches, a Program Management firm (AECOM Transportation) was selected and contracted to manage the complex project for the Airport Authority, and in 2006, the Master Architect/Engineer (HNTB Architecture) was selected and contracted to design the facilities.
The Design Team includes nearly 20 firms of a variety of specialties. Some of the major team members include Wichita design firms such as Gossen Livingston Associates as associate architects, civil engineering by Professional Engineering Consultants and Dudley Williams Associates, aviation history themed exhibits and public art coordination by Greteman Group, and landscape design by Landworks Studio. Other major specialty firms on the team include Ross & Barruzini for information technology design, and Logplan for baggage system design.
Some of the major first tasks of the Program Management Team, Design Team and Airport staff were to develop a project financial feasibility plan and target budget that would be affordable in order to keep airport fees as low as possible. In the fall of 2006, the Airport Authority agreed to proceed forward with a target project budget of $150 million, plus a $10 million reserve.
The next step was to prepare conceptual and schematic designs for the facility that were based upon a series of goals and design objectives assembled by a wide-ranging group of technical experts, facility users and community leaders. Those designs were approved in the summer of 2007, and the team went forward with preparation of design development plans. Later in 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the environmental assessment for the project, which released the work to continue moving forward.
The design development plans for the replacement airline passenger terminal were presented to the Wichita City Council (which is also the Airport Authority), Wichita Design Council, and the Wichita Airport Advisory Board, on August 26, 2008 in a workshop at City Hall. All groups were satisfied that the design team was moving in the right direction, and work began on preparing the contract documents and full plans and specifications for bidding the many phases of the project.
Several other enabling projects (paid from other budgets) have already been completed in order to prepare the site for the building. These include the construction of a new Park & Ride economy shuttle lot, and a new Air Cargo Building. Construction of phase one of the aircraft parking aprons around the new building site has also been completed, and phase two is currently under construction. Installation of utilities, relocating roadways, demolition of the old cargo building and airline maintenance facilities, and preparing the site for development, started in late summer of 2009. Bidding on the major components of the Terminal Building should occur in early 2010, with substantial completion anticipated about three years following groundbreaking.
A primary goal of the project has been to design a cost-effective facility in order to keep construction costs and rental rates low for the airlines using the facility, and to provide a terminal that provides better operational efficiencies for both airlines and passengers, which should result in an increased level of customer service. No local tax money will be used for the construction or operation of the terminal, and federal airport grant funds come only from users of the nation’s aviation system.
The replacement terminal building is about the same size as the current facility in terms of square footage under roof, but it can handle more passengers and is more efficient, and should be less costly to operate and maintain due to energy-efficient equipment and generous use of skylights. The building has been registered for LEED certification and will include a number of energy-efficient features in its design. The current terminal has 11 gates, but only 7 of them are capable of using aircraft loading bridges. The new facility will have 12 gates on opening day, each of which will have a loading bridge. Four gates have been designed to handle two loading bridges, which brings the capability up to 16 bridges, depending on the aircraft fleet mix at the time.
The new terminal is capable of handling two million passengers annually when it opens. However, in contrast to the current terminal which cannot be expanded for additional gates or baggage claim areas, the new facility has been designed to easily permit future expansions to support growth up to 2.4 million annual passengers.
The new building will be located immediately west of the existing terminal in order to keep costs low by utilizing much of the existing roadway, utilities, and parking facilities. The two-story, 273,000 square foot terminal will be a state-of-the-art modern architectural design which expresses flight and Wichita’s globally-prominent position in the aviation manufacturing industry as the Air Capital of the World. Aviation-themed exhibits which portray the history of aviation in Wichita will be an integral element in the terminal’s design.
The curvilinear roof form serves as a large gestural element evoking the dynamic motion of flight. The main level arrivals/departures curb features an overhanging translucent canopy, shielding passengers from the elements while loading and unloading at curbside, and refined landscaping which creates a natural area between the curb and the lobby. A dominant interior feature will be the “great wall” above both the ticketing and bag claim lobbies that is washed with natural light from a linear skylight above.