By Jamal Thalji, Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Take a glimpse at the future of Tampa International Airport:
When renovations of the main terminal are finished by 2017, it will be a sleeker, brighter, more modern space.
It will also be wide-open. The floor-to-ceiling glass storefronts in the center of the airport will be gone, pushed out to the walls alongside a new lineup of places to eat, drink and shop. That will make the center of the new terminal more airy. People will be able to walk through the middle of the airport to get to their flights. “You can see clear across the terminal when you walk in,” said airport Chief Executive Officer Joe Lopano.
The entrances to the airside shuttles will be pushed outward to create more space inside the terminal. Glass walls will allow patrons to see their trams arriving. The new design will allow more sunlight into the terminal. New outside spaces will be created for eating, drinking and even relaxing in a new garden.
These are the actual designs — not conceptual drawings — of the future third-floor terminal that were unveiled during the meeting of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, the board that oversees the airport. The board then approved plans to pay for $1 billion in airport construction, upgrades and repairs that will remake Tampa International Airport from the inside and out.
It is one of the largest public infrastructure projects in Tampa Bay, one that airport officials said will create more than 9,000 construction jobs (and preserve existing ones) worth $370 million in wages. The project is also expected to boost tourism spending in the bay area by $630 million in the next two decades, according to officials.
“Today was a really big day for Tampa, for the airport, for Tampa Bay, for everybody,” Lopano said. “We’ve got a billion dollar project here that is creating 9,000 jobs over the next three years.” “It’s the biggest project we’ve ever done.”
The final design plans will be presented to the board later this year. Ground-breaking is expected to start in the fall of 2014, and all of the work is slated to be finished by October 2017. Eventually, the airport plans to spend a total of $4.1 billion to add, expand and enhance the airport over the next two decades.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, email@example.com or @jthalji on Twitter. © 2013 Tampa Bay Times