New Garden City Regional Airport terminal opens ahead of holiday travel season

GARDEN CITY — The entrance doors of the new Garden City Regional Airport terminal screech in the strong winds, providing a spooky soundtrack during fall days.

Airport manager Rachelle Powell said this is one of the few workers who will be on leave as airport employees prepare for the holiday travel season at the newly constructed terminal building. Kansas Reflector received a tour of the new terminal earlier in October.

The original airport terminal was built in 1959 to serve passengers in southwest Kansas, as well as southeast Colorado and the Oklahoma-Texas panhandles. It was demolished in September. The next phase included the construction of a new terminal with an in-house restaurant, an upgraded check-in counter, a renovated departure gate and refurbished lounges.

Passengers can fly from Garden City to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, via American Airlines flights served twice daily on a 65-seat jet. Reservations can be made online at Additionally, the airport receives a Boeing 737 from Harrah’s Casinos that charters flights to Laughlin, Nev., for people to gamble.

“Community reaction following the opening of Phase 1 has been very positive,” said Garden City City Manager Matt Allen. “This is a very large and high-profile project for our city.”

The $31 million project was funded in part through a sales tax measure passed by Garden City voters in November 2021. Allen said voters approved a .15% sales tax sale for 15 years to help pay for about $9 million of construction. In addition, city officials have received about $22 million in federal funds, both from the Federal Aviation Administration and the CARES Act. The HNTB architecture firm of Kansas City and Crossland Construction of Garden City were selected to design and build the project.

Powell said a total commercial passenger traffic of about 59,000 people last year, both departing and arriving, warranted a new terminal.

“All the research we’ve done, … FAA forecast data models and everything, supports the new airport,” Powell said.

The new facade of the Garden City Regional Airport was unveiled in early October. Voters in Garden City approved a 0.15% sales tax boost to pay for $9 million of the $31 million project. (AJ Dome/Kansas Reflector)

City officials also realized that the demand had exceeded the terminal of 1959. The city commissioners gave a high priority to the upgrading of the facilities “to be more reflective of the service that the airport provides to western Kansas and the five-state region,” Allen said.

Powell said about 28,000 people are expected to fly out of GCK Regional by the end of the year. The airport’s passenger traffic has grown from 18,375 departing passengers in 2018 to 29,186 in 2022.

Phase 2 of construction is underway and includes a second departure gate, full arrivals restrooms, a service animal relief area, a baggage carousel and car rental booths. The arrival and departure lounges have been expanded to accommodate larger groups.

“One thing unique about western Kansas airports is that it doesn’t just fly by itself,” Powell said. “Your mother, father and sister and aunt send you away, so we wanted to reserve that space for some of our people who send their loved ones or come to say hello.

Powell is still awaiting a full-body imaging scanner provided by the Transportation Security Administration to complete the check-in area. She anticipates that the second phase of work will be completed by mid-2024. That schedule gives city officials time to review proposals for leasing restaurant space in the terminal. The former airport building housed Napoli’s Italian Restaurant for more than a decade before the restaurant’s owners moved to a location in Garden City last year.

On March 23, 2022, the owners of Naples posted on Facebook: “Come enjoy a quiet dinner at the airport, you only have 3 more weeks here to enjoy this atmosphere because we will close on April 16.”

The restaurant space was the first to be demolished. Naples is now located at 2204 East Kansas Ave. #5 in Garden City.

Proposals for the new airport restaurant must include a menu, hours of operation, more information on rental and catering. Applications can be submitted to the The City of Garden City website.

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