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New Springfield-Branson National Airport Terminal Scheduled to Open in May

Beginning late this spring, if you fly from the Springfield-Branson National Airport, you’ll leave from a new terminal. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has an update on construction of the new facility.

It’s been nearly three years in the making, but this spring, a new terminal will open at the Springfield-Branson National Airport.Its exterior is impressive—with light blue and aqua glass panels covering the front. The 275,000 square foot building will replace the 175,000 foot existing terminal, which has been in use since 1965.Construction of the new terminal began in June of 2006.

"We're to the point now where, when you go through the building, there are some parts that are just virtually finished, and then there are other parts that are 75% finished."

Kent Boyd is spokesman for the Springfield-Branson National Airport. He says the airport administration expects to move into the new building by the end of March. It’s scheduled to open to the public on May 6th.

"We'll essentially do what you might call a shakedown. We've got to make sure that everything works. We've got to make sure that security works. You have to make sure that jet bridges work. You have to make sure the telephones and the IT infrastructure works. So, you shake it out for five weeks and then we open on May 6th."

The new terminal features 10 gates with room to expand to 60, multiple scanners and screening lines, a restaurant and retail space. There will be a waiting area for friends and family with a window for viewing planes and a children’s play area.The architect—RS & H out of Florida—designed the new terminal around the theme “the Ozarks."

"So, he has three motifs in the building. He has water, geology and then the landscape, and as you walk through the building, you see representations of all three."

2 foot by 2 foot tiles on the building’s inside walls are designed to create the illusion of a limestone bluff. Canopies that hold up the roof are abstract trees, and curvy lines throughout the space represent water. There are some environmentally-friendly features: the light roof colors minimize heat absorption, and the building drainage systems will store and treat de-icing fluid used on airplanes during the winter months. The fluid will be stored until it’s harmless to the environment.The new building is on the opposite side of the airport from the old one, so there will be a new way to get to it.

"If you come out to the west end of Kearney after the new place opens, you're going to be in a pickle if you need to catch an airplane in a hurry, because you're going to have to drive for about ten minutes, essentially go over to Division, go out W. Division to the new terminal."

The best way to get to the new airport terminal, he says, will be to take Chestnut Expressway west of the Bypass, go over I-44, continue a mile west and turn north on a new road called “Airport Boulevard.”Those who are going to the terminal to pick someone up will have a parking lot they can use for free while they check an electronic arrival and departure board that will be located there and call the person they’re picking up on their cell phones.According to Boyd, there are several reasons why a new terminal is needed. For one, the current terminal has run out of space to park airplanes overnight.

"At night in Springfield, 14 jets spend the night, with three down at the American Eagle maintenance hangar. The bottom line is that, in the morning, 17 jets want to take off as soon as possible, but we can only load seven of them at once, so they have to jockey at the gates for a couple of hours, and this is a detriment to the airlines because they want to leave a market as soon as possible early in the morning so they can get to hub to connect passengers with the next bank of flights going out to connections. So, the later they leave in the morning, the unhappier, I guess you could say, the airline is."

The new terminal, he says, will allow the loading of 14 planes at once, and space for bag screening will be considerably bigger in the new terminal.

"We currently have federal employees screening bags in rooms about the size of a small master bedroom, and that space used to belong to the airlines, so we've robbed Peter to pay Paul."

Construction soundAs we toured the new facility where people are working hard to finish it, Boyd told me they’re building for the future.

"We know that, over time, this airport grows three percent a year, so we have to build this building for 25 years out, at least."

Boyd hopes the new, more efficient terminal, will help Springfield’s economy by attracting new businesses. He says the airport terminal is the first thing people see when they arrive in town, and the new terminal will make a good impression.The new building is costing the airport 117 million dollars. 97 million is being paid for through revenue bonds issued by the airport, which will be paid back over 30 years. No tax money is being used to pay for the project. Although the city of Springfield owns the airport, revenue generated from ticket sales among other things, is used to operate the airport and is being used to fund the new facility.20 million dollars for the project came from the Federal Aviation Administration. For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.