Garden City Regional Airport: terminal project update

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
A rendering of what the new termnal will look like at Garden City Regional Airport.

The new terminal project at the Garden City Regional Airport is progressing.

Rachelle Powell, director of aviation at the GCRA, said the initial investigation into the project began in 2016.

For two years afterward, the city of Garden City underwent a terminal area plan, focusing on looking at the current facility, passenger forecast, demand, infrastructure, etc., going forward, Powell said.

"Once we got all that information it was decided that the most cost effective solution would be to build a new infrastructure as a terminal," she said.

The next two years was spent looking into funding solutions because the project is expensive, costing an estimated $30 million, which includes the whole design and construction of the entire facility.

In 2020 the CARES Act awarded the airport $17.9 million, which will go toward the project and provide the majority of the funding.

The other funding streams are $3.7 million from FAA Entitlement, $1 million from Kansas Affordable Air Fares program and $7.5 million from the city of Garden City.

$2 million can later be reimbursed back to the GCRA by the FAA Entitlement money to repay the city's $7.5 million contribution.

Powell said the city started investigating the construction of a new terminal because the structure, built in 1959, is aging and can't be expanded any further.

There have been several terminal renovations in the past trying to extend its life while meeting federal guidelines for passenger security, safety and equipment, ADA guidelines, etc., Powell said.

"We have expanded the security and the passenger hold rooms several times over the years, we've also renovated the bathroom facilities ... we've kind of pieced together this terminal as best we can and it's just extended it's lifespan," she said.

Passengers utilize the Garden City Regional Airport Thursday for one of their two, daily scheduled flights to Dallas-Forth Worth.

However, improvements hit a roadblock, Powell said. They're constricted with what security screening equipment they can have because of the size of the current building.

"Typically airports have a full body imager, and our security room isn't big enough, so we can't even incorporate that technology into our facility," she said. "Building a new facility, we'll have the space and the technology to incorporate a lot of that safety and security that's typically in an airport, but we just can't provide at this time."

The study found that it would be cheaper to build a new facility rather than continue to renovate and add-on, Powell said.

The new terminal will be built in the same foot-print of the existing facility but will nearly triple in size, Powell said. It will be longer and wider and will also have a partial second story that will house the restaurant facility as well as extra seating where people can come watch airplanes and will include a baggage belt and a larger hold room.

Once constructed the new terminal will have two gates, one will have a jet bridge that can accommodate anything from a regional jet with 50 seats up to a 747 with 150 seats, Powell said. Additionally there will be a ground-boarding option that can accommodate any size aircraft.

"Some of the spaces will be back of the house spaces for processing luggage and office spaces and everything that we're not able to incorporate right now in our current airport," she said. 

Powell said currently the design is being finalized, they hope to have it finished by May to then go out and bit in in June or July and break ground in the late fall, around October.

Construction is expected to take two years and will be done in two phases, there will be no airport closures or flight closures during construction, Powell said. The only thing that will be closed is the restaurant facility, Napoli's.

Powell is excited for the new facility.

"It's very exciting, just to be able to offer this for passengers and for them to experience what Garden City and our community can do," she said.

Martin Kang, a pilot with Poky Feeders of Scott City who utilizes the GCRA, is also glad for the next facility. He thinks it will be a benefit to the community.

"I think it's a great thing for the city, for the community, although it doesn't effect me at all because I'm down there in the general aviation hangers, but anything that improves the airport improves the community as far as people's ease of coming in and out of here and doing business," he said.

Hunter Luebbers and Shandi Lopez, both of Hertz, a rental car agency that operates out the GCRA, are also excited for the new terminal.

Lopez said it will be a great first impression for people coming to the community.

"I think it is much needed and it is a nice addition to the community," she said. "As you see everything develop in the new areas of town it's nice to have a nice facility to bring people into, because this will be the first thing they see as they come into town, and if they fly into a nice facility it kind of sets the tone for the rest of their visit."

Luebbers agrees.

"It's nice welcoming for people coming from Wichita and stuff, they see our new facility in the background and they're like 'wow, is Garden City really like that?' Yeah, it is," he said. "We've got a lot to do in Finney County to do and this will be a great improvement, maybe in the future to get more airlines to come in and I think it would be good."