A look at the new KCI airport, including how a Lawrence company makes a big first impression at the $1.5B project

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

The rebuilt Kansas City International Airport is pictured in February 2023.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, 2023

They may be a pair of 80-foot signs proclaiming “Kansas City,” but make no mistake, there’s a lot of Lawrence in them.

Both the entrance and exit signs to the new $1.5 billion Kansas City International Airport were actually made in East Lawrence.

“You can’t miss them,” Shelley Rosdahl, vice president with Lawrence-based Star Signs, said of the company’s creations just off of Interstate 29. “It is the only way in and out of the airport.”

photo by: Star Signs

Lawrence-based Star Signs constructed the new entrance sign for the Kansas City International Airport.

Star Signs, located at 801 E. Ninth St., won the contract in October to build two signs, each measuring about 80 feet long and 17 feet tall, to mark the entrance and exit of Kansas City’s largest statement project in decades. The signs had to be completed by Feb. 23, about a week before the new airport’s opening.

“It took all the manpower we had because it was all custom work, right down to the individual nuts and bolts,” Rosdahl said.

She said the company, which has about 30 employees, did not outsource any of the work on the signs. Instead, all the crafting was done at the company’s sole location, which is down by the railroad tracks in East Lawrence, basically on the edge of the Warehouse Arts District.

The company has been around a lot longer than the arts district though. It was founded in Lawrence in 1977 by KU graduates and has remained in Lawrence ever since, although the company’s ownership has changed over the years.

The company, however, has been national in its work. Rosdahl said the company previously did a lot of work far afield, especially for the casino industry. But Star Signs now is benefiting from what has been a construction boom in Kansas City in recent years. Rosdahl said the company does lots of its work in the KC metro area, saying schools, libraries, sporting facilities and other large projects have been staples for the company. It is competing to win the sign contract for the new Kansas City Current soccer stadium that will be a major new development along the banks of the Missouri River.

Rosdahl said the new KCI signs, though, stand out among the company’s creations. The KCI airport is billed as the largest single infrastructure project in Kansas City history, and it is expected to be one of the busiest facilities in Kansas City for generations.

“We are very excited and very fortunate to be part of the project,” Rosdahl said. “It probably is one of our largest and more complex fabrications we’ve ever done, and it was cool to watch it all come together.”

photo by: Star Signs

Lawrence-based Star Signs constructed the exit sign for the new Kansas City International Airport.


The entrance and exit signs, of course, are just the tiniest tip of the iceberg that is the KCI project. KCI officials are beginning to educate residents of the region about the look, feel and function of the new KCI, and it makes sense for Lawrence residents to take a look too, as KCI is by far the airport of choice for most Lawrence residents.

Here are a few things that stand out in the information being put out by KCI.

• There’s one terminal building, which is the norm for airports across America but wasn’t the case for the old KCI. You may remember that sometimes travelers had to take a bus to get from one terminal to the other. The new airport puts everybody in a single building, and runs everybody through a centralized security checkpoint.

• While there is one terminal building, there are two concourse areas in the terminal building. They are connected by a 635-foot-long corridor. And, get this, the corridor has a people-mover, or moving walkway. Yes, that’s been common in many airports across the country for a long time, but this is the first one for KCI. (I’ve long said that if any city in America needs a people-mover, it should be the BBQ capital of the U.S.)

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

A 635-foot corridor connects the two concourses at the new KCI terminal.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

The new KCI terminal has a moving walkway for the first time.

• Perhaps you no longer will feel it necessary to devote one entire carry-on bag to all your snacks and sandwiches. The new KCI has a much larger number of restaurants than the old KCI. Offerings include: Big Chicken, which has many chicken dishes and a mac-n-cheese offering that makes use of Cheez-Its; Bloom Baking Company, which serves danishes, cakes and pastries; Bo Lings, which serves a variety of Chinese dishes; a Boulevard Brewing Co. beer hall; Brown and Loe, an upscale restaurant with dishes “accented by French and Italian flavors;” Meat Mitch, a Kansas City-style barbecue restaurant; Pigwich, which features sandwiches, burgers and fried potatoes; Poio, which serves both Asian and Mexican dishes; Taste of Brazil, which features specialties like shredded beef pot roast and other traditional South American dishes; a Soiree Steak and Seafood House; and many others.

In total, the KCI website lists more than 30 restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, self-service food stations and even a Missouri-themed wine bar among the food and drink offerings of the new airport.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

Brown & Loe is one of more than 30 food and drink places in the new KCI terminal.

• If you are going to have dozens of places for coffee and beer, you know what you also better have — lots of restrooms. KCI officials are touting that the new KCI has three times as many toilets as the old KCI. They also are highlighting changing stations in both the men’s and women’s restrooms. They also offer a mixed-gender restroom that is designed with fully enclosed, private stalls. That mixed-gender restroom also has a technological twist. A video board at the entrance to the restroom tells you how many stalls are unoccupied at the moment, and gives you directions to other restrooms if all stalls are filled.

The new KCI also has a “restroom” area for service animals, such as guide dogs, that are making a trip. That restroom area doesn’t have a high-tech video screen, but it does have a faux fire hydrant.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

A pet restroom area is included in the new KCI terminal.

• If you have stayed away from the 46-ounce double espressos, you actually might need a seat during your stay at KCI. The new concourse areas feature traditional seating, but also include work station tables, plus charging stations throughout the concourses.

For nervous travelers or people who just need a quieter area before flying, the new KCI also includes a sensory room. And for those younger travelers who need to burn off some energy, there is a children’s play area.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

Seating at the new KCI terminal includes workstations.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

A children’s play area is included in the new KCI terminal.

• When it comes to senses, though, there is a ton of original artwork throughout the airport that might stimulate yours. There is $5.6 million worth of new artwork at the new KCI, airport officials have said. As the Journal-World has previously reported, the new airport will feature works by two Lawrence artists, Hong Zhang and Mona Cliff, whose pieces were selected from among hundreds of applicants.

The money for the airport art came from the One Percent for Art program in Kansas City, Missouri, which mandates that a certain portion of the budget for public construction be set aside to fund public art. The $5.6 million set aside for the airport is the largest amount in the program’s history.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger pieces of artwork at the new terminal.

photo by: Contributed

Two drawings by Lawrence artist Hong Zhang were commissioned for the New airport in Kansas City, Missouri. They are on display in concourse B, gate 57. At left is “Kansas Braids” and at right is “Grass Style.” They are charcoal on paper.

photo by: Mona Cliff/Contributed

“Prairie Confluence” by Lawrence artist Mona Cliff, pictured, is one of the art pieces in the new KCI terminal.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

The artwork “Fountain” by Leo Villareal is in the retail concourse of the airport.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

The artwork “The Air Up There” by Nick Cave is in check-in area of the airport.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

The artwork entitled “Ornithology” by Willie Cole in a retail node of KCI.

photo by: Credit: KCI

Artwork entitled “Dreaming of the Beautiful Places You Will Go,” by Bernadette Esperanza Torres, is near one of the gates of KCI.

• People picking up travelers will have a different routine than they experienced at the old KCI, which was pretty laid back. If you remember, a circle drive allowed you to pull just a few steps from one of many doors leading into the terminal. The new KCI has more of a vehicle corridor like you see at many other airports. It also has two decks. The upper roadway is for people dropping someone off at the airport. The lower roadway is people picking someone up from the airport.

photo by: Courtesy: KCI

The KCI terminal has a new area for motorists who are picking up people from the airport.

• One thing that didn’t change much is the economy parking lot for travelers. The A and C lots did combine. There will continue to be shuttles that take you from the economy parking lots to the terminal. Parking lot B won’t be used on a regular basis, but will remain in service for particularly heavy travel times. The new KCI does include a 6,000-space short-term parking garage, with rates starting at $1 for 30 minutes. It has a lot of technology to direct motorists to areas of the garage that have open parking stalls.


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