Des Moines airport board votes against name change

The Des Moines airport board doesn't want to change the airport's name, voting 5-2 in favor of keeping the current Des Moines International Airport.

Board members said changing the airport's name would be too costly and would cause confusion among some travelers, particularly those from out of state, about the name of the city's airport.

"I think it is very important that we maintain the identity and the location," said Roger Brooks, who supported keeping the name the same.

Airport Director Craig Smith said $500,000 has been spent in recent years on campaigns that put the airport's name in front of residents in Iowa and elsewhere. A change would "require us to expend dollars we simply do not have," he said.

In addition, renaming the airport would cost about $85,000 to change all of the places where the airport's name appears, Smith said.

The issue now goes before the Des Moines City Council, which will make the final decision on whether the airport gets a new name.

The council is tentatively scheduled for a vote at the Aug. 24 meeting following a public hearing, said David Ferree, assistant city attorney.

Two names — Arthur Thomas and Luther Smith — had previously been submitted to the council and forwarded to the airport board.

Smith, 88, was a Tuskegee Airman. Thomas was a longtime manager at the airport.

Board members Nolden Gentry and Thomas Ross voted against the measure after a public session Tuesday at which several people spoke in support of renaming the hub after Smith.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to show a true American hero and that the American dream can be accomplished by anybody," said Mike Earley of Des Moines.

After hearing the support for Luther Smith, Gentry proposed postponing the board's recommendation. That was defeated 5-2, with Ross again joining Gentry in support of waiting.

John Jones of Des Moines, who put forth Thomas' name, was the only person to speak in favor of naming the facility after Thomas.

He said Thomas helped develop the airport. He said he feels the distinction should go to someone directly involved in the airport.

"I think if you are going to rename an institution or an airport you should rename it after somebody who made a huge contribution," Jones said.

Sam Kalainov, who served on the board for 25 years, spoke in support of leaving the name alone.

"Destination and designation of an airport should be reflective of each other," he said.

The Des Moines Register is owned by Gannett, parent company of USA TODAY.

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