Concerns over $250K in airport celebrations

Wichita's new airport terminal (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita is eager for the opening of the new airport terminal, but should that translate into $250,000 worth of parties?

KSN went to city leaders with that question.

Wichita Airport’s Director Victor White told us that $250,000 would pay for five separate events, including a public open house and a VIP gala. He says this isn’t coming from taxpayer dollars.

White says some of this comes from rental fees from airport tenants, and the rest will hopefully come from donations, but some city leaders are still concerned.

“The funding was several different parts. A public open house, I have no problems with that. There was an open part for the families of the airport,” Wichita City County Jeff Blubaugh said. “I have no problems with that and an open house for the construction workers and their families, I have no problem with that.”

But when it comes to special invitation for a gala for the opening of the new Wichita airport, that’s Blubaugh concerned.

“I do understand that there’s going to be some donations made for that, but I wanted to know of the airport user fees, how much of that money is being spent on there,” Blubaugh said.

The gala is expected to be paid for with a $125 per plate charge. Eight hundred people including city leaders, senators and other dignitaries have already received invitations. But what if they don’t come? Who will pay then?

“If there are tickets left over at the end of the invitation list, we will probably open it up to the public, whoever wants to come,” White said. “We’re thinking about having some giveaway of some tickets, some social media, Facebook contest, things like that to get some folks in that are not part of that particular invitation list.”

The airport still doesn’t have a per-event breakdown of the cost and that’s concerning for Blubaugh, who suggests just getting rid of the gala all together.

“I don’t think it’s going to be an exorbitant number just to host an open house and be able for people to be able to see the airport because obviously we want to show it off, but at the same time we don’t want to be having a huge party at the airports expense,” Blubaugh said.

This morning the city council did approve having the open house, a tour for the media, and receptions for employees and families, but after this concern, the city put off making any decision on the gala.

They have to make a decision in early April if the gala should be funded or not.

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