This article first appeared Jan. 29, 1975 edition of The Gardner News

The Olathe Naval Air Center, pictured above and currently New Century AirCenter, was an issue of much discussion in 1975. File Photo

A series of meetings between city officials and representatives of a citizens opposition group to expansion of Executive Airport is being planned in Gardner, De Soto and Spring Hill.
The citizens group of about 200 people is headed by Robert L. Hinkle. The group opposes expansion of the airport and instead says that future efforts should be directed toward development of Industrial Airport – the former Olathe Naval Air Station.
Hinkle and the attorney for the group, Richard Enochs, will present their position to city officials and interested residents of the three cities in three separate meetings.
In letters to the three mayors of those cities, Hinkle pints out the opposition by his group to plan to spend $3 million on expansion of the Executive Airport.
“We strongly believe that any construction at the Executive Airport will both delay the development and dilute the potential of the (ONAS) Industrial facility. In view of this, I see the need at this time for communities, township, organizations, business interests and key persons to register their opinions to the county commissioners,” Hinkle’s letter reads.
Hinkle said the airport commission has indicated it will immediately prepare an application for the Executive expansion project, but noted that such an application would require approval by the county commission.
Hinkle said he supported three basic goals including a county priority on development of ONAs, keeping Executive at its present level of operation, and reorganization of the airport commission to include equitable representation and business expertise.
There has been considerable conversation and discussion in the rural and suburban part of the county concerning development of ONAS.
Last year an announcement was made in Olathe that ONAS would, in fact, be developed including a proposal for a trade center and international trade fair.
However, singe that date, little has come in the way of information about development of the former Navy installation. Some firms have occupied existing facilities at the airport.
Most of the interest in this area has been from a business standpoint, that is, toward the industrial development of the airport, rather than the aviation aspect.
From that viewpoint, there has been some expression that perhaps a need was apparent for business representation on the airport commission, or that another body be established by the county commission, with the purpsose of promoting the business development of the airport.
Plans for the Industrial Airport are underway. Murl Johnston, director of the airport commission, said those plans should be finished in about six months.
Those firms already in buldings at the facility include tin shops, cabinet shops, plastics industry and printing.
“The current money market and recession is holding us up, however. We have three or four people waiting in line to get their business started, but they just don’t have the money at this time,” Johnston said.
Johnston added that if the money market gets better toward the end of 1975, and since the master plan will be finished this summer, some construction in the airport’s expansion may be started sometime in the fall. He was quick to add that no construction will begin until buildings are really needed at the facility.
“It will probably be another 10 years before the Industrial Airport gets very large,” Johnston said. “But it’s going to be a booming area that will be great for the western side of Johnson County.”