Project WINGSPAN Takes Flight

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport’s $115 million terminal project preserves the past while readying it for the future

Before Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) broke ground on a $115 million terminal expansion and improvement program, it asked the community for input. While no surprises emerged from the focus groups they held, a common theme did: Community members really liked their airport.

“We heard a lot of people say that this airport is a simple airport to fly out of: Don’t mess that up,” says Kevin Howell, GSP vice president/COO.

Currently, GSP serves 1.8 million passengers a year out of a 226,000-square-foot terminal built 51 years ago. Though renovated and expanded in the late 1980s, the aging terminal, sporting 13 departure gates, needed freshening up in order to continue enticing passengers to fly out of it instead of its larger counterparts; Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, 85 miles to the north; and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, 165 miles to the south.

“We leak a lot of passengers to those airports,” Howell admits. In order to compete, he says GSP needs to sell an exceptional passenger experience. “We need to be that be-all-to-end-all airport because at the end of the day a passenger doesn’t have a lot of choice as to which hubs they connect to, but they do have a choice about where they originate or end their trip,” he explains.

GSP developed a blueprint for its future dubbed WINGSPAN, a $115 million improvement program designed to propel the aviation center toward the years ahead. It is hoped that WINGSPAN, 80 percent of which is being paid for by airport funds with the rest of the tab being picked up by the FAA and TSA, will increase capacity, improve efficiency, incorporate state-of-the-art safety processes, integrate sustainable practices, positively impact the area’s economic landscape, and make GSP the airport of choice for Upstate residents.

But you can’t accomplish any of these goals with a terminal designed for another time, Howell emphasizes.

“We have a 51-year-old facility that serviced the community well,” he explains. “It’s time to prepare for the next 50 years.”

The airport plans to execute the 48-month project in three key phases. Phase I is ongoing and has moved the rental car customer care center, is updating Concourse A and B restrooms and concessions; constructing a North Wing to temporarily relocate airline facilities, and move utility infrastructure. Crews recently began the second part of Phase I, which includes installing new baggage carousels, adding canopies over passenger loading/unloading areas, constructing a covered walkway to Garage A and B, and installing new glass on the terminal front. Once this work concludes in March, crews will begin Phase II construction, which includes adding a new food, beverage and retail concessions area in the Grand Hall; renovating the existing ticketing lobby; creating new customer service booths; adding a landside garden; installing baggage screening equipment and facilities; consolidating security areas; and renovating Concourse A and B. Later, Phase III will add administrative offices and a conference center. Howell expects the project to be complete by the first quarter of 2016.

Airport officials based the entire design on the fact that GSP expects to double its traffic by 2020. They used the design criteria of 2 million enplanements annually; given that the airport is just shy of 1 million enplanements today. But Howell explains, “We’re always looking on the horizon” as he points out that GSP has averaged 5 percent annual growth for the better part of 50 years.


A Green Future

Long-term sustainability is a key part of WINGSPAN’s renovations, according to Howell.

Airport officials sought to make the aging structure more efficient by today’s energy standards and more sustainable for the future. “There are many things you can do to improve mechanical systems, electrical, heating and ventilation,” Howell explains. “Simply by changing out the glass, you can make a building more energy efficient.”

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