Concrete has been crushed, two story columns have been poured and masonry walls for an elevator core are on the rise. It’s all happening at a massive construction site on the edges of Airside F that is undergoing a $27 million renovation to improve the flow of passengers through security checkpoints and customs and accommodate Tampa International Airport’s growing number of international flights.
“It’s all about customer service,” said Brian Rumble, TPA’s deputy director of operations, who is overseeing the project. “We want to improve the passenger experience and be able to handle three wide-body flights at the same time.”
Airside F, the airport’s international terminal, has already seen an increase in activity with the launch of nonstop flights to Zurich, Switzerland in May and the introduction over the last 12 months of five flights to Cuba each week. The airport’s international passenger traffic increased nearly 20 percent in the first seven months of 2012 compared to the same time last year.
In addition to improving passenger flow, the end product will feature a sleek modern design with wood finishes, a video wall, visitor information center, tile floors, murals and a skylight.
John Nicholson, who has worked in the airport’s planning and development department for nearly 15 years, said the Airside F project is more complicated than some other airside construction projects because Airside F operations continue.
“We have to work around a lot of people,” Nicholson said.
But even with all the activity and the near completion of the shell for a two-story expansion on the West side of the building, passengers using the airside now barely notice the work. Temporary walls and service entrances and boarded-up windows insulate the traveling public from the construction zone.
“They were saw-cutting and doing demolition and you could barely hear it in the terminal,” said Carol Cowan, a senior construction manager at Tampa International Airport. “It’s pretty amazing.”
The project will be completed in phases. One new baggage belt is set to be in operation by Nov. 30, when British Airways and Edelweiss switch to their winter schedules, bringing an influx of passengers in a tight time frame. New screening checkpoints and an international lounge are scheduled for completion early next year. The next phase, including expanded concessions and a third baggage belt, should be done by April with the project being entirely completed by next August.
“It’s going to put this airport into a good position for the future,” said Denis McMahon, an assistant director of Customs and Border Protection who works in Airside F. He said he’s been impressed with work so far.
“You would think that a project of this scale would be intrusive. But it’s really not,” he said. “The only people that notice it are the people that know what’s going on. The general traveling public has no idea.”