Manhattan Regional Cleaves Terminal to Rebuild & Expand

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Manhattan Regional Airport (MHK), located in the picturesque and growing Flint Hills region of Kansas, cut the ribbon on its new terminal early this year. More than triple the size of the old facility, the new 42,000-square-foot building emerged from the footprint of the existing terminal in an unusual manner. The airport essentially cut its existing terminal in half, and then demolished, rebuilt and expanded each half during separate phases-while maintaining operations the entire time. 

The project, which lasted more than three years and cost about $18 million, had been a long time coming, reflects Airport Director Jesse Romo. When preliminary internal discussions about a new terminal began in 2009, MHK had approximately 25,000 total enplanements. In 2015, the airport exceeded 66,000. 

Traffic increased quickly after MHK received $2 million from the state of Kansas and $250,000 in local funds to meet the community's growing demands for expanded air service. In September 2009, American Eagle began providing regional jet service to Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) with minimum revenue guarantees. If flights fell below 70% load factors, MHK would use funds received from the state to offset the difference. But load factors remained above the threshold and even increased. Soon, the airline added two more DFW flights, and service to O'Hare International (ORD) as well. These days, American offers up to three flights per day to DFW and two to ORD from the growing Kansas airport. 


Project: New Terminal
Location: Manhattan (KS) Regional Airport
Approx. Cost: $18 million
Funding: Airport Improvement Program (78%); city of Manhattan (22%)
Marketing Support: $350,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant (U.S. Dept. of Transportation); $150,000 in local funds
Initial Planning: 2009
Construction: Oct. 2013 - Dec. 2016
Project Strategy: Erect dividing wall; rebuild & expand terminal in both directions; remove wall & join 2 new halves  
Engineering & Design: Mead & Hunt
General Contractor: The Weitz Co.
Associate Architects: Bruce McMillan Architects; Ben Moore Studio 
Interior Design: BA Designs
Civil Engineering: Olsson Assoc.
Electrical Engineering: Custom Engineering
Mechanicals & Plumbing: Central Mechanical Construction
Electrical & Technology: Torgeson Electric
Passenger Boarding Bridges: JBT Aerotech
Anti-Passback Security System: Boon Edam
Video Surveillance System: Genetec; Bosch
Fire Protection: Bamford Fire Protection
Roofing: Diamond Roofing
Baggage Handling: G&S Mechanical, USA
Glazing: Manko
Terrazzo Flooring: Desco Coatings
Seating: National Office Furniture

In December 2010, MHK received a $350,000 grant from the U.S. DOT Small Community Air Service Development program and $150,000 in local funds to help promote the airport's new regional jet service. 

"We never had to tap into that $2 million [from the state]," Romo proudly reports. "Two years later we returned those monies with interest-an amazing success story indicating the strength of the Manhattan market."

In the meantime, however, the old terminal struggled to handle the increased traffic.

Based on the airport's 2011 Terminal Master Plan, the FAA agreed that a new terminal was needed. MHK began demolition and construction in October 2013, with Airport Improvement Program funds paying for 78% of the $18 million project and the city funding the remaining 22%. 

Remaining Operational 
Mead & Hunt designed the new terminal, working with general contractor The Weitz Co. to develop a complex phasing program that kept the terminal up and running throughout the project. During construction, a temporary access road helped prevent vehicular conflicts between arriving travelers and contractor equipment.

Before demolition and construction could begin on the eastern half of the terminal, the airport had to relocate its ticketing counters, outbound baggage screening operations and airport administration offices. Three modular trailers equipped with ramps were placed just outside the western half of the building for the airline ticketing office and TSA baggage screening. Airport administration offices were relocated to a vacant building on the east side of the airfield. Rental car offices, a holdroom for departing passengers and the entryway for arriving passengers remained in the western half of the building.

With all tenants out of the eastern side of the terminal, the first order of business was constructing a temporary dividing wall in the center of building so demolition and construction could ensue in two separate phases. 

"That was one of our biggest challenges," recalls Weitz Project Manager D.J. Van Etten. "We had to construct a standalone wall not attached to the existing terminal structure that could withstand the weather and not damage the new structures when it came time to take it down."

Careful planning and coordination was needed to ensure that the halves, which were constructed as two distinct and separate structures, could be joined together incrementally throughout the multi-year project, notes Nathan Bosdeck, construction manager for Mead & Hunt. "The flexibility and communication of all stakeholders paired with the utilization of phased construction methods allowed the airport to remain in operation continuously with minimal disruption," he reports.  

With the exterior-grade temporary wall in place, contractors demolished the eastern half of the building and added about 22,000 square feet of new terminal space. New ticketing counters, restrooms, a passenger holdroom, mechanical/electrical rooms and areas for baggage screening and makeup promptly occupied the added space. 

Crews also installed a new 3,500-square-foot TSA screening area during Phase One.  "Enhancing our security operations was an essential part of the overall project," says Romo. With two X-ray machines and a body scanner, MHK's new checkpoint is capable of running two concurrent screening operations. 

"We had been flying 44- and 50-seat regional jets out of the airport," explains Romo. "However, ExpressJet Airlines, operating on behalf of American Airlines, began operating 65-seat CR-7s with flights to DFW in May 2017. Anything above 60 seats requires a complete security program. Our newly installed access control and closed-circuit television systems puts us at a tremendous advantage from a security standpoint."

The airport also added two new jet bridges to help accommodate the new volume, one during each phase of the project. 

After crews completed Phase One in February 2015, MHK moved all of its tenants and services into the new, fully operational eastern half of the building. Airlines assumed their spots at new ticketing counters and rental car companies worked out of temporary offices nearby. A temporary baggage claim area was created with a garage door and plywood ramp, with agents manually delivering baggage to arriving travelers. 

"We had half of a holdroom that seated approximately 100 travelers, big enough for one flight at a time," Romo recalls.

Phase Two began in September 2015 with demolition of the empty western side of the terminal and ran until December 2016. Crews added 20,000 square feet of terminal space, including a new baggage claim room with one new carousel system and capacity for a second. Contractors also constructed new rental car counters and three ground transportation stations. 

As an additional security measure, arriving passengers now pass through Boon Edam anti-passback revolving doors to enter the new 2,600-square-foot meet-and-greet area. An airside food-and-beverage area and landside gift shop and concessions (currently unoccupied) were also constructed. 

Upon completion of Phase Two, contractors removed the temporary wall that ran the entire length of the building to separate the two halves of the terminal during construction. "That was extremely challenging," recalls Van Etten. "We had built two separate buildings that we now had to marry together. We had to locate and match the plumbing and ductwork between the two buildings as well as match interior materials within the building."

Joining the roof structures, a space of 6 to 7 feet, required special care. "We worked with Mead & Hunt and airport and local authorities to create safe passage areas for the public," she notes.  

Crews performed most of the infrastructure and mechanical connections between the two structures at night in four- to five-hour increments. Overall, the process took four to five months. 

21st Century Facility
Romo can't say enough good things about the new terminal. "The airport is the front door of the community," he enthusiastically states. "Whether arriving or departing, the public is now greeted with a gorgeous state-of-the-art facility that represents the Flint Hills region."

Aesthetically, the new structure is patterned after the area's geography. "The curvature of the roof reflects the rolling hills, allowing the building to truly fit into its environment," explains Mead & Hunt designer Jessica Tyler. 

Inside, cloud-like metal ceiling panels continue the design theme. "We used a lot of calming earth tones, drawing limestone from a local quarry and using it on the exterior and interior," says Tyler. "The extensive use of glass brings in a lot of natural light, which not only assists with wayfinding, but when combined with the stone texture and wood canopies creates a warm, welcoming atmosphere throughout the terminal. Additionally, the use of new programmable LED lighting saves a considerable amount of energy."

Customer feedback about the new building has been phenomenal, reports Romo. New amenities such as wi-fi throughout the terminal and furniture with charging units bring the terminal into the 21st century and reflect the kind of services the Manhattan community needs and deserves, he notes. 

Laurie Goscha, business unit leader for architecture at Mead & Hunt, agrees: "This is a beautiful building that reflects both the progressive spirit and regional pride of the Manhattan community."


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