As a wrecker starts chomping at Detroit Metro Airport's Davey Terminal today, many passengers who have slogged through the terminal's crowds and taken the long walk down Davey's dreaded Concourse C say good riddance.
"I would pay a lot of money just to be able to swing one blow of the wrecking ball," said Jeffrey Lewis, 36, of Farmington Hills.
Instead of the drama of a wrecking ball or explosives, the vacant Davey will endure a slow destruction as the wrecker begins with the international portion known as Davey Jr. today and wrap up demolition of the Davey and the Marriott Hotel by early next year.
The $5-million demolition project will provide a clean slate on which to build the new North Terminal.
The $443-million North Terminal will hold 26 gates and create an open and airy home for the likes of Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, US Airways and all of the airlines housed in the nearby blue-green Smith Terminal.
Passengers stopped using the Davey three years ago when Northwest Airlines moved into its gleaming new, mile-long McNamara Terminal.
But memories of Davey linger for passengers.
"It just didn't fit the times," said Steve Petrak, 51, of Bloomfield Hills of the Davey, which was built in 1966 at a time when the airport handled about 4 million passengers a year.
It became the hub to Republic Airlines in 1984 and then Northwest Airlines, which merged with Republic in 1986.
After plenty of additions and extensions, the Davey was in use in 2000, when the airport handled more than 35 million passengers.
"It was like an octopus. It had limbs extending all over the place," said Nicki Nicholson, 64, who runs Nicholson World Travel Service in Southfield.
Lewis has tried to forget his memories of the longest limb at the Davey.
"Whenever I looked at my boarding pass, I never wanted to see C 20-something," Lewis said. "If you were cutting it close. It meant you weren't going to make it," Lewis said.
Concourse C's low ceilings, little light and cramped waiting areas earned Detroit Metro the reputation as one of the worst airports in the country.
A survey of airports in Conde Naste Traveler called it "our own gates of hell."
"If you were claustrophobic it was a tough place to be," Lewis said.
The Davey's Concourse C held 26 gates, and the walk all the way down to C-26 measured more than a half-mile long.
"Everybody hated that gate," said airport spokesman Michael Conway, who said the sign for gate C-26 sits on a shelf in airport CEO Lester Robinson's office.
Most of Concourse C is gone, demolished after Northwest moved to the McNamara Terminal in 2002.
But part of it remains as Spirit's gates at the Smith. Some Northwest red still stands out on signs that have been shaved off the hub carrier's logo in C's current, shortened incarnation. Because airport management decided to start from scratch with the new terminal instead of retrofitting the Davey and parts of Concourse C, those gates eventually will go, too.
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