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Santa Barbara Airport Offers Sneak Peek at Terminal Project

Officials take the media on a tour as construction of the new building continues to progress

Donning hard hats, a half-dozen media representatives got a sneak peek Wednesday at the Santa Barbara Airport’s new terminal, a project that is rapidly progressing. Most of the constructions crews had finished for the day when project manager Leif Reynolds took the group on a tour through the skeleton of what will be the new terminal.

With the roar of planes operating just outside the framing of the new building, Reynolds walked the group through what promises to be a vast improvement on the old terminal. Officials behind the project are hoping to address issues of overcrowding, and the 72,000-square-foot, two-story terminal had water, sewer and power installed earlier this year, and the framing and roofing of the project are under way.

Airport officials say passenger traffic is up 1 percent over the same period last year, and the airport served 750,000 passengers in 2009.

Wednesday’s tour began inside a construction trailer on the edge of the site, where monthly schedules line the walls with tasks to be done and renderings of what the final project will look like. There were 26 rain-delay days last winter, Reynolds said, and there could be more depending on how much rain this winter brings. Crews are eager to weatherize the buildings before the rains begin.

Making his way with the group through the bottom floor and past the new baggage claim, Reynolds gestured to the 35-foot ceiling, which will feature the 1930s 6-foot lantern on loan from the Santa Barbara County Courthouse for the terminal’s lobby after it was removed as part of a recent remodel.

Up the stairs and escalator slated for the building, the terminal will have five gates, a restaurant and tapas bar, a gift shop and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

The terminal will be dotted with skylights, and of the windows facing the horizon, Reynolds said the original views of the ocean and the mountains should be preserved. He said the design even incorporates three all-glass boarding bridges from the terminal to the planes. The new terminal will be the second in the nation to have them, and Reynolds said that at $700,000 each, only three will be installed initially.

At a cost of $54 million, construction of the new airline terminal is funded primarily by bonds, with the rest is supplemented with Federal Aviation Administration grants. No local tax dollars are being used for the project, and the airport is funded by user fees and tenant rents.

The center terminal of the current airport building, a historic core built in the 1940s by United Airlines, will be preserved and moved to the new terminal’s east end. The terminal also has some impressive environmental statistics, and it boasts a LEED silver rating.

The unveiling of the Santa Barbara Arts Alliance “Postcards of Travel” happened July 19, and local youths were a part of creating the mural with local artist Carlos Cuellar. The new terminal project is also launching a new public art program that will involve commissioning artists to create art in the terminal spaces, as well as displaying artwork on loan, such as a Channing Peake mural.

Airport Director Karen Ramsdell was on hand Wednesday to answer questions after the tour. She said that despite the snazzy new building, it’s not a guarantee that traffic will increase and that more airlines will be added, because those things are determined by the market.

“It’s not a situation of ‘If you build it, they will come,’” she said.

Ramsdell said, however, that late departures and more crowded holding areas have been an issue, and the new terminal should help alleviate some of those problems.

The main terminal project is expected to be completed by April 2011, and the relocation of the historic terminal core is expected to be done by 2012.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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