Committee advances KCI Airport concessions bid — but not without heated debate first

Business

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City committee has endorsed Vantage Airport Group to be the concessions operator at the new Kansas City International Airport terminal.

But Wednesday’s vote didn’t happen without some heated City Hall debate.

The Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee had just one week to review all five proposals for the concession contract at KCI. Some think they needed more time to address serious concerns.

In fact, council members Teresa Loar and Katheryn Shields got up and left the committee meeting in protest, saying the process was moving too fast and hadn’t been transparent. The two said they have serious concerns and more information is needed.

Loar said it reminds her of the controversy over the terminal’s construction contract.

“The same thing, the very same thing, which the past council, including Quinton Lucas, hated and fought very hard against — all of the non-transparency, all of the secrets, all of the back room meetings,” Loar said. “That’s exactly what’s going on here again, and this is a $1 billion contract.”

After Shields and Loar left the meeting, Lucas called in from New York so there would be enough committee members to vote.

The committee selected the proposal from Canadian company Vantage Airport Group, moving it to the full city council for a vote next week.

Besides a lack of transparency, Loar is concerned businesses will struggle with Vantage. She said it’s a development company that will charge businesses for build-out, rent, utilities and other expenses that come along with having a space at the airport. Loar said the other four proposals have more reasonable models.

“They’re going to lease Jasper’s brand. Jasper’s is going to come in and set up a kitchen, and he’s going to teach them how to cook his brand and then Jasper’s gets a check every month,” Loar said, explaining another proposal. “That’s it. End of story.”

Jasper Mirable, owner of Jasper’s Italian restaurant, is part of another proposal that includes Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and the Jazz Museum. Mirable believes there could be corruption at the root of this deal with Vantage.

“There is obviously something wrong with the system,” he said.

Mirable said he’s not bringing this up because his group’s proposal wasn’t selected. He’s frustrated with the lack of transparency.

“You know, here’s the thing: Everybody in Kansas City should know what’s going on. They should not be behind closed doors,” he said.

FOX4 reached out to Vantage Airport Group, Mayor Quinton Lucas and committee chair Eric Bunch for comment. None of them responded.

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