Aug. 9--TUPELO -- Perhaps it could be called "Extreme Makeover: Airport Edition."
Officials with the city and Tupelo Regional Airport have embarked on a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion of the 20-year-old facility.
"This is the beginning of a dream," said Terry Anderson, TRA executive director. "This building was built for a different era, for different needs. Now we need more space, which was the primary decision for the project."
With the addition of ASA/Delta Connection in June, Tupelo Regional has two air service providers. Increased demand of air travelers, plus new safety regulations and technological advances, showed several years ago the need to expand and renovate the facility.
Once complete, the "new" Tupelo Regional will add to the "safety, servicing and convenience of our air travelers," Anderson said.
The three-phase project, with a $4.3 million price tag, will add 6,500 square feet to the current terminal. After work is complete on this first phase, the second phase will involve moving airport operations to the new addition before work begins on the original structure.
Mike Williams, president of Frazier & Williams Construction, the general contractor on the project, said the renovation of the terminal would be a complicated effort.
"We'll be taking it down to its original steel structure," he said.
"Once that's complete, we'll be adding the new walls and skylights."
While renovation is going on there, operations will be moved into the new addition.
Anderson said he hopes for a seamless transition with little or no disruption in service.
Once the renovation is complete, a canopy will be added to the front of the building, providing some shelter to passengers and visitors.
But the visual centerpiece of the project will be a glass and steel tower on the back of the building that will serve as entryways for both airlines, as well as provide observation and office space.
Victor Moreno, the project manager for Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel, said the design goal was to give the airport a high-tech look more in tune with the 21st century.
"The airport is a front door to our community, and we want to project a really nice image," Anderson said.
The project could get another $500,000 boost if a grant comes through, allowing the airport to add other features.
"We hope to eventually provide a covered canopy from the terminal to the parking lot," he said.
Southernaire Inc. and Tupelo Aero Inc. finalized their deals with the Tupelo Airport Authority, which bought the fixed based operators for $1.5 million.
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Airports in seven western Kentucky cities are continuing to upgrade using a total of $5.7 million in federal money matched slightly by state and local governments.