ABQ's Sunport Gets an Upgrade

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Albuquerque International Sunport, which handles some six million passengers each year, recently began unveiling the new shops and food outlets that are part of the facility’s Terminal Optimization capital development program.

On November 1, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, along with officials from the Sunport and Fresquez Concessions, cut the ribbon and officially opened the Los Cuates Restaurant pre-security, following the opening of a food court earlier this year post-security. The new restaurant will employ 65, seat over 300, offer a full bar and lounge area, and feature a full menu of New Mexican favorites.

Fresquez Concessions, which partnered with Los Cuates, won the contract to operate the location as well as a post-security restaurant that will open early next year, through an open and competitive bid process.  Contracts with food and retail concessions operators run for ten years, with all capital costs coming from the concessionaire. The Sunport receives a percentage of gross sales on top of a minimum annual guarantee.

The Sunport’s director Jim Hinde explains that the new contract replaces a similar length agreement which was expiring. “We reconfigured based on recommendations of one of our consultants,” he says. “We put out of an RFP and awarded it. Portions of it got dragged out because of a protest. The successful respondent on the original restaurant couldn’t come up with financing for it. So we ended up having to reissue the RFP.”

The next milestone at ABQ will be the opening of the Rio Grande Brew Pub & Grill in January.

Hinde relates the airport continues to entertain responses to an RFP issued for new retail concessions. “There are four packages that are involved,” he explains. “One is news; Hudson News has the current contract on that. Then there are two specialty retail packages. The fourth package is for the kiosks that you see throughout the terminal.”

He adds that the new contract and array of concessions will be fairly similar to what had been in place, with some heightened consideration given to pre/post-security. Says Hinde, “The food & beverage one we changed up quite a bit. The original one was done prior to 9/11; because of the security checkpoint issues the market changed, if you will. You have a lot of people now who want to get through the checkpoint ASAP.

“We had the Rio Grande Brew Pub out there, which was somewhat of a sit-down restaurant. But we really needed more sit-down restaurant capabilities. We had the food court and restaurant out there and they are actually swapping places with a new brew pub, and the new Rio Grande Brew Pub will be where the old food court was. Quiznos got moved across the hall; a new bar was constructed next to it.

“The retail package has been fairly successful and any changes made to it have been modest at best. We anticipate significant increases in both the food and beverage and the retail operations. We can’t really gauge it yet because all facilities aren’t opened yet. We do know the new areas have had very good revenues.”

Hinde says that the new agreements should help reduce rates and charges to the air carriers. “We’ve been working for more non-airline revenue generation, trying to impact on the lease rates in the terminal and also the landing fees,” he says. “We were able to drop those. It made it very easy to negotiate the new airline leases.

“We’ve also been very conservative here borrowing money for capital projects. The agreement we just negotiated with the airlines is a five-year agreement; before the end of the five-year time period we’re going to pay off a lot of our airport revenue bonds. That’s going to drop the rates dramatically. 

“We’re forecasting pretty flat growth out here. We’re able to start stockpiling capital for debt service retirement as well as some of the smaller projects that we’ve been wanting to do. A lot of our projects have been demand-driven; and the demand is just not there now.”

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