View Full Version : Airport completion delayed until 2006

04-14-2005, 09:50 AM
Airport life continues during work
By Julie Bisbee
Business Writer

You might think you know your way around the Oklahoma City airport. But then again, it could change within a week.

The Will Rogers World Airport has been undergoing $110 million in renovations and additions since 2002, leaving it in a constant state of flux.

Along with new floor-to-ceiling windows in the new terminals and the sand-colored stone work on the building's facade come dusty walkways, confusing routes and ever-changing locations for ticket counters and gates.

"It's just chaos," said Paul Smith, a pharmaceutical account manager traveling home to San Antonio. "I come through here four or five times a year, and it's so confusing."

Completion of the airport project, which includes two new terminals, a parking structure and wider entrance roads is expected in February or March.
That's months later than initially had been anticipated by airport planners and city officials.

"The sooner the better," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. "I worry about the airport employees. They are working in a construction zone everyday."

The airport initially had been forecast for completion in August. Weather delays and design changes prompted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks pushed the ending date back, said Karen Carney, airport spokeswoman.

"It's like a home remodeling project," Carney said. "You start doing one thing and then you run into some unforeseen problems and you got to fix those first."
A completion date for the airport, originally built in 1968, was revised to December, but even that date was cutting it too close after design changes had to be made to the baggage screening areas pushed the construction starting date back to February 2002.

"We had to re-evaluate the design," said Douglas Hartwick, managing director for Benham, the architecture firm working on the airport project.

While to the travel-weary it may seem like construction at the airport will never end, it is on schedule, said Luther Trent, director of airports.

"We're hitting the time frame," Trent said. "We estimated construction taking about four years from when it started, and I don't think they're too far off."

Meanwhile, the airport's security forces continue to keep tabs on workers in the construction zones behind security checkpoints. Contractors at the airport must pass a background check and are given badges they must return when the quit or finish their work at the airport.

"It's a full-time job. We have one security officer that all he does is monitor the badges," Carney said.

Construction may create headaches for travelers, but its not hurting traffic at the airport. The airport saw a 6.5 percent increase in the number of people boarding planes in February, compared with airport figures from the same time last year. The number of people getting off airplanes in Oklahoma City increased by 7.6 percent, with 115,836 using the airport.

Roads that allow passengers to be dropped off or picked up in front of the airport have opened, allowing outgoing passengers to check their bags at the curb, instead of lugging them into the airport. Five airlines are in their permanent space, and Southwest Airlines began flights from its new gates Wednesday.

Behind the security checkpoint, restaurants Sbarro and Schlotzky's have opened. A Sonic counter will open Sunday. Restaurants behind the security checkpoint will cater to travelers awaiting their flights, not those waiting to see a loved one off.
"People have what we call, 'gate syndrome,'" Carney said. "They want to get through security and get to their gate, and then relax and get something to eat."

Narrow terminals in the old part of the airport with various colors of fabric-covered chairs have been replaced by concourses with 53-foot ceilings, roomy chairs upholstered in simulated leather and brushed metal pillars.

"It's a little more complicated," Smith said as he walked through an outdoor passageway to check-in at an airline ticket counter. "But I know it will be better in the long run."

04-14-2005, 09:54 AM
If it gets our promised 25 gates, that is quite alright with me. Plus it gives time to convince the nay sayers by cramping what we have. They will screem "why didn't they build it sooner?"

04-14-2005, 09:59 AM
BTW, the airport website *still* has not been updated for quite some time. I doesn't even include information about the arrival curb opening, even though there was a press release about it two weeks ago.

Also, I emailed Karen Carney over 7 months ago about updating the pictures (something that had not happened in several months at that point) and she promised to do it soon, which is yet to happen. Just sent her a nice follow-up email, offering the assistance of a couple of good webmasters, and she hasn't bothered to respond.

If the airport is going to have a website, somebody needs to take responsibility for updating it. It's embarrasing to the city and also the waste of what could be a highly efficient communication tool, especially given the daily chaos.

I know many on this board have much bigger fish to fry concerning the airport, but this is a simple matter that should be fixed now. If something doesn't happen on that site in the next week, I may contact the Mayor Mick directly.

04-14-2005, 10:22 AM
Theysay this expansion project will be complete in early 2006, but that's just the completion of the main terminal....what about Phase III which included the building of the East Concourse? Obviously, it won't be complete in early 2006. Sounds like they've already forgotten about it. I wonder if it's still in the works. Last I heard, construction of the east concourse was put on hold.

04-14-2005, 10:34 AM
Yes, the east concourse is on hold based on everything I've read.

Also, it makes me nervous that they are being very vague (Feb/Mar) about a completion date.

I have a great deal of experience in big construction projects and while I completely undersand delays, I can also say that without setting a firm date and working very hard to reach it, time frames tend to just keep expanding.

04-14-2005, 11:14 AM
It also makes me wonder if they'll just sweep the East Concourse plan under the rug and forget about it. Everytime I've emailed Karen Carney about the East Concourse, she's tried to divert attention away from it, or dodge my questions.

04-14-2005, 11:30 AM
I bet what happens is they delay the project and wait until America West announces their new hub or some new airlines want to enter the markt. Then, these airlines say "thanks but no thanks. Had you built a terminal for our needs, then we would be locating here." THIS is why we need to build all this now instead of when the contract is ready to be signed by tenants. Who cares if these things are vacant for a few years. Look at Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg. It sat empty for years before the Devil Rays were enfranchised. Same theory.

04-14-2005, 11:59 AM
Anyone know if the $110 million budget included the east concourse?

It seemed to be part of the original plan and funds were allocated accordingly.

Then, "Phase III" suddenly went on indefinite hold.

There is no question that it will be cheaper to build the east councourse now rather than later, as steel costs continue to escalate and there are already construction crews in progress.

I'm worried that if it doesn't get built now, it never will.

04-15-2005, 10:15 AM
The 110 million did include the east conocurse. It will be built, sometime in the future, as far as I have read.