The competition for travelers parking dollars at Kansas City International Airport has become hotter than summer asphalt. And it probably wont cool anytime soon.
The Parking Spot, a privately owned operation at KCI, broke ground Monday on a nearly five-acre expansion that will add 451 covered spots to the site at the northwest corner of Interstate 29 and Cookingham Drive. Also, the company plans to add covers to 160 existing surface parking spaces.
When completed this fall, the Parking Spot will have a total of 2,410 spaces, of which 1,420 will be surface and 990 will be covered by a 168,000-square-foot steel roof structure.
Also Monday, the Kansas City Aviation Department kicked off a reward program for frequent users of its 15,000-space economy parking lot, which opened in January 2004. The economy lot, which is adjacent to the Parking Spot, replaced the satellite lot at Paris Street and Cookingham Drive.
The Parking Spots expansion, the second since the business opened at KCI in 1999, and the economy lots new frequent-user promotion are coming at a time when passenger traffic at the airport is returning to levels the airport had before Sept. 11, 2001.
And those travelers are finding more parking options than ever before.
Last summer the Parking Plaza KCI, a 1,500-space lot, opened at 11500 N.W. Prairie View Road. That company offers oil changes, motor vehicle inspections and other maintenance services for customers vehicles, as well as a pet boarding service.
Some rental car agencies near the airport offer parking services, too. They include Thrifty, which is next to the Parking Plaza KCI.
Terry Trippler, a Minneapolis air travel consultant, said KCI is at the forefront of this revolution in airport parking services.
At one time, parking was not a big thing at the airport, Trippler said. But parking generates income, and airports need that.
Parking is one of KCIs top revenue generators. In fiscal 2004, which ended April 30, the Aviation Department collected $32.9 million in parking revenues, a 4 percent increase from the previous year. The private parking facilities do not disclose revenue.
Trippler predicted that the new parking operations at or near KCI will succeed because of the airports growth potential.
KCIs day is coming, he said. Its in an attractive part of the country for some airline to start a minihub there, and to the west the next major airport is Denver.
Travelers who were taking shuttle buses to the airport on Monday said the new parking facilities are a far cry from the day when the airports satellite lot was the only reasonably priced parking option near the airport.
Waiting for the bus used to take a lot of time, said George Atsangbe of Kansas City.
Each parking site at KCI, including the airports economy lot, has various customer services.
At the Parking Spot, which also has airport businesses in Los Angeles, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston and Orlando, customers are picked up and dropped off at their vehicles.
By the time people reach their parking space, one of our distinctive yellow shuttle buses is waiting to pick them up, said Paul Waspi, vice president of development for the Parking Spot.
Drivers help customers with luggage and offer free bottled water and a newspaper.
The covered parking spaces, which cost more than the surface spots, are popular because they protect vehicles from extreme weather conditions, Waspi said.
The Parking Plaza KCIs vehicle services include tire rotation, transmission and cooling system service, dent removal, windshield repair and a car wash. Valet parking is provided.
That kind of parking facility the one that will wash your car and everything else for a comparable rate while you are traveling is the wave of the future, Trippler said. I think its great to be able to come back from a trip and find the car washed and cleaned inside. Im waiting for an airport parking business that gives you dinner to go.
By the time the rental car facility opens, KCI will be sporting more than $410 million worth of improvements in the last six years.
Workers are putting the finishing touches on the $90 million center, which is being built on a former satellite parking lot.
Free bottled water and newspapers, $9 coupons, carwashes, oil changes and valet parking are just some of the inducements that D/FW and nearby parking-lot owners are wielding this weekend.
Airports are adding the service to gain revenue, differentiate themselves from competitors and provide travelers with a time-saving convenience.