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    Food, jazz, prizes usher in new Airside E

    Thousands turn out to take a sneak peek at Tampa International Airport's new addition.

    By JEAN HELLER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 13, 2002

    TAMPA -- The only things missing were the airplanes.

    Tampa International Airport introduced its new Airside E to the public Saturday, and several thousand people turned out to visit and take advantage of a day of cut-rate food, a Dixieland band and a chance to win free stuff.

    "I hope it's this busy when it's actually open for business," said Louis Miller, executive director of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. "The nice thing about having an open house is that it lets people see the terminal who might never get down here again unless they're ticketed passengers."

    Airside E, which will become the new home for Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Air Canada on Tuesday, was barely ready. Workers were still laying flooring in the children's playroom during the media/employee party Friday.

    "And there are a lot of people still working behind the scenes, in the office areas," said John Duda, Delta's station manager at TIA. "But we're ready for the people, and they seem to be enjoying themselves."

    They were dancing to the Dixieland music, stuffing down pizza and hot dogs and admiring the surroundings.

    Robin Carson of Tampa was at the airport to catch a flight to Atlanta.

    "I have two hours before my flight, so I thought I'd come over and check it out," Carson said.

    She was particularly impressed by the security screening area, which has five metal detecting arches and X-ray screening belts and a wide-open area to accommodate lines, an improvement from the cramped, overcrowded security facility at Airside C, where Delta had been housed.

    Tim McGuire brought his family down from Spring Hill to visit both the new airside and International Plaza, which they'd never seen -- "a two-fer," he said.

    "It's nice," he said of the terminal. "I don't fly much but we just like going to the airport. We used to come down and go up (to the roof of the garage) and watch planes take off."

    One of the improvements at Airside E is access to Delta's regional jets. Passengers must walk across the apron to board. At Airside C, passengers had to use a stairway. At Airside E, they can use an elevator or escalators.

    As soon as operations run smoothly at the new facility, Airsides B and C will be demolished. C will be rebuilt for Southwest Airlines. The space occupied by B will be given to airlines that need overnight parking.

    Miller said that when Airside C is rebuilt, he would like to avoid one aspect of the new Airside E that he doesn't like, a floor that slopes from the shuttle lobby to the concourse. The shuttle comes in high to give sufficient clearance to the road below, requiring the slope to get the floor down to the level of the airline gates.

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