It's more than ten times larger than the facility it replaces

A $17 million terminal opening today at Palm Springs International Airport won't increase the number of gates for parked airplanes, but the much larger concourse will make it easier to add new gates, airport officials say.

The 18,000-square-foot terminal replaces a 1,500-square-foot facility that was meant to be only temporary when it was built 11 years ago, said Allen Smoot, a consultant for the airport who oversaw construction, which began in mid 2005.

"It was a long temporary," said Smoot, who retired as the airport's executive director of aviation in December 2003. "It was tiny and there wasn't enough room for the passengers."

The old facility was built for small planes carrying only 19 passengers, Smoot said. "Nineteen-passenger aircraft aren't on the market anymore," he said.

The new terminal is designed for airplanes carrying 90 passengers each on regional routes. Among the airlines that will use it are United Express, Delta Connection, US Airways Express and Horizon Air.

The terminal has eight gates where passengers can board and disembark airplanes, the same number as the much smaller facility it replaces and the same as the airport's main terminal, built in 1999. But the number of gates in the new terminal can be tripled to keep pace with growth, officials said.

The airport handled 7.1 percent more passengers this year than last.

In April, officials with SkyWest Airlines, Horizon Air and US Airways tried to halt construction of the terminal until their concerns about its design were addressed. Early designs had the gate counters too far from the gates to allow one airline employee to handle both at the same time, Smoot said.

"At this point everybody is happy with the final product," he said.

The airport's next construction projects are largely cosmetic, including additional landscaping and demolishing two other temporary holding rooms for passengers.

The airport also plans to refurbish the lobby of the main terminal, Smoot said.

Reach Kimberly Pierceall at 951-368-9552 or

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