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Local News

Santa Barbara Airport Enjoys Smooth Takeoff of New Terminal

$54 million facility greets early morning passengers, most of whom welcome the changes and new amenities

The Santa Barbara Airport opened the doors to its new terminal in the dark, early morning hours Thursday for passengers jetting off to such hubs as San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles.

Although the opening came about three weeks later than expected, passengers didn’t seem to mind as they waited for flights in the new $54 million, 72,000-square-foot facility.

“I really like the architecture of the old one, but I like that this has a lot more space,” said David Gainza, who was flying home to the Bay Area.

Santa Barbara Airport Director Karen Ramsdell said things went pretty smoothly but that it will take some time for staff to get comfortable operating new systems, such as the glass boarding bridges.

“I was surprised how quiet it was in the departure lounge because people can spread out a bit,” she said.

Denver-bound Dorothy Burch said the new terminal is better because passengers can use restrooms after going through security, unlike the previous terminal built in 1942.

Paul Leshner, who was flying to a connection in San Francisco, said his only gripe is that there’s no place for families to eat with departing relatives while they wait.

“That’s going to be a disadvantage because you could do that better in the old terminal,” he said.

Ralph Bustos dropped by to check out the new terminal and to chat with former colleagues with whom he worked during his six years as a baggage handler and parking security guard. From the terminal’s observation deck, employees previously had to hand passengers umbrellas while they unloaded or loaded aircraft in the rain.

“When we used to load planes, they would have to go 100 feet out into the elements,” he said.

Those passengers traveling by large commercial jets will now be able to walk on using the boarding bridges.

Additional construction is planned at the airport in the coming months, with the relocation and refurbishment of the old terminal, a new short-term parking lot and new roadway expected to be complete in spring 2012.

Ramsdell said she was unsure when the process for the building’s LEED certification will begin, but that she does expect it will receive a gold-level certification. The Santa Barbara City Council requires that all new city buildings receive at least a silver-level certification.

“Because almost half our property is the Goleta Slough Reserve, sustainability is very important to us,” Ramsdell said.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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