Drew Field Municipal Airport
"the creation of America's Favorite Airport"
On February 23, 1928, Drew Field Municipal Airport, a general aviation facility, opened as a result of the city fathers of Tampa negotiating a deal with land developer and citrus planter, John H. Drew. The 160 acres of barren pine woods were nearly six miles west of Tampa. It was beyond the city limits and accessible by only a few primitive streets and narrow, red-brick highways leading toward neighboring Pinellas County and the Gulf of Mexico. A local newspaper obliged with a map to guide the public to the grand opening.
The new city airport opened with appropriate fanfare as "one of the Nation's finest." Today, Tampa International Airport operates on 3,300 acres, incorporating the Drew Field site.
Drew Field competed for public funds and attention with Peter O. Knight Airport, which was the designated airline airport built in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The City of Tampa leased Drew Field to the U.S. Government for 25 years, or until the end of the "National emergency". It is estimated that as many as 120,000 combat air crew members were trained at Drew Field - - peak troop population reached 25,000 at one point.
Drew Field was transformed from a cow pasture engirdled by swampy land into a large army air bastion, a nest for war birds and the campus for a large signal-air-warning training school.
Drew Field was given back to the City of Tampa. The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority was created by the Florida Legislature and charged with the operation of all publicly-owned aviation facilities within Hillsborough County, Florida.
This Special Act contained no appropriation of funds for start-up costs. Therefore, the Aviation Authority made a yearly request for limited local tax levy. Between 1945 and 1973, the Aviation Authority received local tax support which totaled about $11 million.
With the close of World War II, Peter O. Knight and Drew Field reversed roles because Drew Field was greatly expanded by the U.S. Army Air Force during the war years.
Airline operations were moved to Drew Field from Peter O. Knight on Davis Island after the Federal government deeded most of the Drew Army Air Force Base to the Aviation Authority. It became Tampa's airline airport.
The airport was finally named Tampa International Airport (TPA). The terminal facilities were situated near the intersection of old Columbus Drive and Westshore Boulevard. This terminal served approximately 1 million passengers a year when it opened.
The Civil Aeronautics Board made a key decision to approve numerous airline route applications and Tampa went from serving four airlines to serving 11.
The state legislature gave the Aviation Authority the power to issue revenue bonds. And Tampa International was given federal designation as an intercontinental airport.
Tampa entered the jet age. Thanks to the expansion program started in 1958; the single north-south runway was expanded to 8,300 feet.
Tampa International's new terminal opens. It took 31 months to build and cost $85 million, in 1971 dollars. TPA's basic design principal - - separate airside and landside functions connected by "people movers" - - is considered radical in 1971 when operations commenced.
Today, City and County citizens are the owners of nearly $2 billion worth of improved property, known as Tampa International Airport.
No one can calculate the dollars and cents value of TPA's promotion resulting from the worldwide interest and applause that the Airport continues to attract.
The Airport is a vital part of the Tampa Bay area's economy. The Airport generates its own operating revenues; it remains an important economic catalyst for the community - - without the need for local tax support. The airports (TPA, Peter O. Knight, Plant City and Vandenberg) operated by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority directly and indirectly support nearly 18,000 jobs in the community and pump more than $1 billion annually into the economy. Tax collections generated annually are nearly $55 million, of which $23.5 million is collected by local governments in Hillsborough County.