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    Growing TIA to redesign space

    Larger curbside check-in, new escalators and 14 more gates will give passengers and planes more breathing room by end of 2002.

    By JEAN HELLER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


    TAMPA -- Over the next 20 months, renovations at Tampa International Airport will create more room for passengers and airplanes and make the trip from curbside check-in to the gate easier and faster.

    By June of next year, the second floor -- the ticketing level -- will have been redesigned and redecorated. Exterior walls on the blue and red sides will be moved in by 10 feet to more than double the queuing capacity for passengers using curbside check-in. Additional skycap stations will be added to move passengers through more quickly.

    Four escalators -- two each on the blue and red sides -- will be built right inside the doors so passengers can get to the trams to the gates without adding to congestion by walking through the ticketing areas. The green carpeting will depict pelicans, seagulls and water.

    And by October 2002, the 270,000-square-foot Airside E will be completed on the airport's west side, adding 14 gates that can serve larger aircraft. Delta Air Lines will occupy nine. The other five are unassigned.

    The projects, which were approved Thursday by the board of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority and have been in the airport's master plan for some time, were necessitated by nearly three years of continuous and unprecedented growth.

    In the first 10 months of last year, passenger counts rose by 6.5 percent, which made TIA the nation's eighth-fastest-growing airport. In those 10 months, TIA served nearly 13.4-million passengers.

    "Our growth has exceeded even what we projected," said Louis Miller, executive director of the Aviation Authority. "We'll do passenger numbers this year we weren't expecting until 2004."

    Redesign of the ticketing level carries a guaranteed maximum price of $14.7-million and a completion date of June 1, 2002. The Aviation Authority will get its first look at bids on the construction of Airside E next month.

    The improvements will bring some disruption once construction begins in May. The work will be done in phases, but passengers should expect changes in the routine on the ticketing level, just as they saw in recent years with renovations on the third floor and in baggage claim.

    "You might see barricades in one place for a while, then they'll move. It will be a lot like when we did baggage claim but not as disruptive," said Brenda Geoghagan, airport spokeswoman.

    Once the ticketing level and Airside E projects are completed, work will begin on renovations to Airsides C and D.

    "They aren't very nice," Miller said. "It's not dangerous, but those buildings are filled with asbestos. The holding rooms are too small, the concessions aren't good. They require vertical movement of passengers on elevators and escalators, which you don't want for smooth operations, and the mechanical systems are 30 years old. They've exceeded their useful life."

    One feature Airside E will have immediately and the other airsides will get eventually is direct delivery of outbound luggage. When a passenger checks in at the curb or at a ticket counter, the bags will go directly to the airside instead of going through the baggage handling area on the first level of the Landside Terminal.

    "Once we do all that and get the car rental facilities out of there, we can make the baggage claim area much larger, put in bigger carousels and make the whole process easier and faster," Miller said.

    All this work will be done over the next eight years, Miller said, by which time TIA might be forced to look at building a second terminal complex north of the existing one.

    "We didn't envision that until 2020," Miller said, "but if growth doesn't slow down, it will be earlier."

    In other developments Thursday, the Aviation Authority saw the final numbers from January's Super Bowl:

    Passenger counts increased by more than 73,000, representing a 12 percent increase over January 2000. About half of those were Super Bowl-related and arrived on 36 airline charters and 14 additions to the regular flight schedule.

    TIA had 430 corporate aircraft parked on game day. Region-wide, airports served 1,200 corporate and private jets for the game. That exceeded NFL projections of 1,000.

    The airport handled 240 charter bus operations.

    The five on-site car rental companies processed 6,422 returns on the Monday after the game and another 4,404 on Tuesday.

    Super Bowl merchandise sales in the terminals totaled nearly $1.4-million.

    "People say there's not much economic impact to the game," Miller said. "Right here there was."

    Changes at TIA

    Second-floor ticketing level will be redesigned.

    Space for curbside check-in will be doubled.

    Skycap stations will be added.

    Four escalators will be built close to the doors.

    New Airside E will be completed by October 2002.

    Recent coverage

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    New TIA lot meets match on holiday (November 28, 2000)

    Southwest expanding TIA presence (November 3, 2000)

    Such a deal (September 3, 2000)

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