A Publication of Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport

January 2018


The Wild Man of Wichita

Craig Rhodes: zoo architect, world traveler

Few people fly out of Eisenhower Airport more than Craig Rhodes, lead zoo designer for GLMV. The architectural firm has offices in Wichita, Kansas City and Houston, and 25 unique clients in 20 states. He's often on an airplane or about to catch one. "I know every airport in the country," he says, but notes that Eisenhower is his favorite. He also knows every zoo. When it comes to designing immersive exhibits, Rhodes is the man.

There's the Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, for example. It puts elephants and visitors in the water — together. "Never been done before," Rhodes points out. There's also the Pride of the Plains, which can put you so face-to-face with a lion that it's startling. "Holy cow," as Rhodes describes the experience, "what is keeping that guy in there and how am I safe?"

Rhodes at the Sedgwick County Zoo gorilla exhibit

Rhodes at the Sedgwick County Zoo gorilla exhibit

Rhodes has flown to Africa, South America and other parts of the world for projects and research.

Rhodes has flown to Africa, South America and other parts of the world for projects and research.

That's the kind of thing Rhodes does. He's designed more than 100 projects like that at over 40 zoos across the country. From Akron, Ohio, to the desert lands of Arizona, from Rhode Island to the Florida peninsula, he gets around. He's also flown to Africa, South America and other parts of the world for projects and research. When we spoke in early fall, he was preparing to meet with an international team of designers to kick around ideas for the Philadelphia Zoo that could change the "direction that zoos will be going over the next 50 or 100 years."

"What we're trying to do is create environments where people are in awe of nature's beauty around them," he says. "Most of us can't go to Africa or go to South America or go to Asia and see these animals. If we can foster stewardship at home for animals, we feel that we can build a great empathy towards the natural world in general."

Good zoo design, he says, is the kind you don't notice.

"When we've really done our job, you're paying attention to the animals. You're not paying attention to the design," he says. "That's really key. One of the things we really believe in around here is to minimize the built environment as much as we can."

When we've really done our job, you're paying attention to the animals. You're not paying attention to the design.

North American river otter at Akron Zoo

North American river otter at Akron Zoo

That's why he's so partial to the design he created at the zoo in Akron, Ohio, for one of his favorite animals: The North American river otter.

It features a pair of slides made of acrylic, so they're mostly invisible. There's one slide for the otters to play on and a tube slide for kids so they can slide through the water with them. "I want to do that with hippos," he says. "I'm just waiting for a zoo to say that I can."

He'd be on the next flight out.

Zoo Recommendations
from Craig Rhodes

North Carolina Zoo

The largest zoo in the world is in a small town, Asheboro, North Carolina (fly into Greensboro, N.C.). "It's a very naturalistic zoo," says Rhodes, where "conservation of the species is first and foremost." It's spread out over 2,200 acres of hilly terrain. GLMV is at work now planning new features, like zip lines, rope courses and hiking trails to make the experience even more of an adventure. Meanwhile, tigers roam nearly free on acres of wild.

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

"It's one of my favorite small zoos," says Rhodes. "It's a great zoo, great people and a great community." The zoo, in Naples, Fla., took a hit during Hurricane Irma and lost a few trees and two African antelope, but all the alligators have been accounted for.

North Carolina Zoo

North Carolina Zoo

Alligator Bay at Naples Zoo

Alligator Bay at Naples Zoo

Red panda at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Red panda at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Mountain lions at Chattanooga Zoo

Mountain lions at Chattanooga Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Rhodes and GLMV are currently at work on a tropical rain forest for this zoo in Providence, R.I. But it's already an elaborately landscaped destination, set in an old park in a historic neighborhood of a storied city. The zoo holds more than 600 animals and is noted for its interesting conservation work. "That's a fun one," says Rhodes. "And Providence is a neat city."


"We're doing a big project in Chattanooga," Rhodes says. "That's a great town." It's one of the country's greenest cities, with waterfront trails, electric buses and pedestrian bridges. It's a good place to be outdoors. Rhodes' team is currently at work on a master plan for a multi-acre giraffe habitat, and a new lion habitat. It's already home to a unique exhibit, Walkin' the Tracks. It's railroad themed and features animals one might have spotted from the window back in the day.

Plan your zoo trip

North Carolina Zoo Trip Flight Times Roger Williams Park Zoo Trip Flight Times
Naples Zoo Trip Flight Times Chattanooga Zoo Trip Flight Times


Phoenix & Scottsdale,
A Rising Destination

Why you should make the short hop to this hot city

Phoenix Scottsdale - Quick Flight Great Getaway Phoenix Scottsdale - Quick Flight Great Getaway

There is more to the Valley of the Sun than golf courses and day spas. It's beautiful by night, too. To view the desert stars from a rooftop lounge while sipping a prickly pear margarita is the sort of one-of-a-kind experience you're looking for in a vacation destination. You'll find that in Phoenix, if you know where to look.

The thing about Greater Phoenix — the metroplex includes the cities of Scottsdale and Mesa — is that it is sprawling, suburban, and seemingly only wild around the edges. It's hard to pin down what the place is about. That's what makes it a unique and interesting travel destination. It offers a little bit of everything.

Phoenix is the New Vacation Destination
World Class Dining and Museums in Phoenix

You've got your metropolitan nightlife and culture, including world-class dining and museums. But you can also go lowbrow and get a taco on the street, then maybe slip down to student-filled Tempe for a few cervezas where the bars are less posh but more lively. In the morning, you can act your age and replenish with a mud mask at one of the spas or hit the links in Scottsdale.

Winter is the best time to go when the heat is mild and pleasant. Take a group tour, rent a helicopter or mule, or just hoof it on your own through the Sonoran Desert to take in the otherworldly landscape. There's no other place on the planet like the Desert Southwest. The cactus is as advertised, but Phoenix will surprise you.

What to see and do
in Phoenix

Heard Museum

It's recognized internationally for the quality of its collection of art and artifacts that tell the story of the Native Americans of the Southwest.

Taliesin West

You've seen his take on prairie architecture, now see the desert home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. It's an eye-opening example of organic architecture, seemingly built into the landscape.

Musical Instrument Museum

From the howl of Jimi Hendrix's Stratocaster, to the Hawaiian ukulele, to the plunking thumb pianos of Uganda, if it makes a musical sound, you'll hear it at this museum. Headphones provided.

Taliesin West Frank Lloyd Wright

Taliesin West

Phoenix Attractions - Musical Instrument Museum

Musical Instrument Museum

Desert Botanical Garden

See the towering cacti, alluring succulents and brilliant wildflowers of the Sonoran Desert. It's where the wild things grow (but are easily seen from the walking trails).

Camelback Mountain

It's an easy hike up a mountain that is right in the middle of the Phoenix Valley. You'll get some outdoor exercise and a great view in every direction.

Hot Air Ballon Ride

Take in the beauty of a Sonoran sunrise and the disappearing desert below from a hot air balloon. The morning tours offer breathtaking views, cooler temps and high adventure.

Desert Botanical Gardens - Phoenix attractions

Desert Botanical Gardens

perfect weather visit phoenis non-stop flights perfect weather visit phoenis non-stop flights

Now is the time to go

Winter and spring are the best times to visit Phoenix. The weather is perfect. Have a look at these temps. Nice, right? You don't want to see the summer numbers.

Phoenix Temperature Chart

How to get there

Southwest Airlines

* On Southwest Airlines, nonstop daily to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Book Flight


* On Allegiant Air, nonstop on Mondays & Fridays to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Book Flight

*All routes subject to change


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Editor Valerie Wise, Wichita Airport Authority
Creative Agency Greteman Group
Creative Director Sonia Greteman
Art Director Meghan Smith
Contributing Writer Barry Owens
Photography Craig Rhodes, Adam Snyder, John Slankas, Tim Menzies,
Eric Kilby, Charles Barilleaux, Andrew Horne,
Kevin Spencer, Gary Brownell

Eisenhower Air is published for the traveling public by the Wichita Airport Authority. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Please direct them to Valerie Wise at [email protected]. We also encourage you to share articles through social media and email. Help us spread the word about the good things happening at our airport.

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