Kansas City’s enormous replacement air terminal is totally new, but somehow also familiar. Because, while the opening has led to a major shopping transformation—it has doubled down on recognizable and iconic landmarks in the largest city in Missouri, with some 80% of the dining and shopping experiences at the airport now local.
Kansas City International Airport (MCI) has seen the arrival of a host of store concepts inside the over one million square foot, $1.5 billion terminal whose life started with a design concept in 2018. This was the largest single infrastructure project in the city’s history, and airport and travel retail specialist Marshall Retail Group (MRG), a WHSmith company, has taken the lead in creating a retail offer, especially for MCI.
The new terminal—which came in on time and on budget—opened last week and marked the end of the three-building terminal complex that opened more than 50 years ago, with two of the old terminals still to be razed. Kansas City’s mayor Quinton Lucas described the new building as “a new front door for the people of Kansas City” and added: “It will bring millions, if not billions, of dollars in new economic development to Missouri and Kansas.”
Making the city a focal point
Back inside, MRG—in collaboration with its Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE
) partners—has sourced and curated products from local businesses and organizations. This is part of the company’s nationwide strategy to take key elements of an airport’s surrounding city to make each gateway more distinctive and memorable. It was also something demanded by Canada’s Vantage Airport Group which runs the retail concession program at MCI and has made a $65 million investment at the airport.
As passengers come through security into Concourse A, they will find a Made in KC Marketplace which showcases products from dozens of local vendors and makers, including corners from Skin KC and chocolatier Christopher Elbow, plus a nod to the international market with a Lego Travel store. Also in the concourse is The Market at 18th & Vine, a travel essentials one-stop shop complete with an interactive keyboard that pays homage to the historic 18th & Vine jazz district.
In Concourse B, a replica of the oldest market in the Midwest, in the River District of Kansas City, has been erected. Like the market itself, City Market KC at MCI allows travelers to explore a broad mix of local brands and discover something of the city’s historic past.
Nearby, travelers can also check out more familiar airport offerings such as a bookstore branded with a local literacy organization called Turn the Page KC, plus The Pitch newsstand and gift shop; an InMotion tech accessories store (the 162nd worldwide); and a Brookside Local.
MRG has also launched its first automated retail solutions at MCI for 24-hour access to certain brands. One of them is an InMotion kiosk selling smaller electronics items. In total, nearly 50 local and national food and beverage, and shopping experiences can be found in the terminal.
The Kansas City Airport System is an enterprise fund department of the City of Kansas City and it said that the vast project was funded using 100% tax-exempt debt, a cost-efficient approach to an infrastructure development this big. On the retail side, director of aviation, Patrick Klein, said he expected the new raft of store units would “make an important last impression on travelers.”