He has visions of putting out electronic signs that drivers could see from far away that indicate whether there are any seats available at each of the restaurants or whether the time-starved traveler should move on to catch his flight. Terrell said he's also looking at trying to install TV monitors that would display up-to-the-minute flight times.
But opening a retail development would possibly be two to three years away, he said. It would take at least a year to plan it.
This is all being done now for several reasons. The airport is in the midst of planning the future use of about 7,000 acres outside the area where it has its terminals. That's because it wants to be ready for when the drilling of gas wells starts within the next year or so.
Also, the airport has taken a stronger interest in generating revenue outside the turbulent airline industry, Terrell said.
"The airport traditionally has not had the need to go out and look for a lot of nonairline revenues," he said. "And about a year ago, we took a new approach, and we decided what can we do to further develop nonairline revenues across the airport."
The more the airport generates in nonairline revenue, the less it has to charge the airlines that use it. Airport officials argue that that could lead to lower airfares overall.
Board members generally liked the retail idea but also urged caution.
"I think we need to be sure we look carefully before we step, especially if you look at where those possible wells are going to be," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said. "Obviously that's not going to be as big a deal to someone who's got a warehouse as it is to someone who has a restaurant or more pedestrian traffic."
Developing retail on the south side of the airport is a challenging proposition because the location is relatively far removed from one important retail ingredient -- homes where shoppers live, said Bob Ginsburg, vice president in CB Richard Ellis' Dallas office.
The center would also need to rely on shoppers from outside the area, not just airport patrons, he said. At least the north side of the airport is closer to dense apartment complexes and more housing, he said.
It may need a so-called destination retailer such as Ikea or Cabela's, he said.
"When you talk about large-format retailing, you need a lot of shoppers," Ginsburg said. "I'm not a person who would be very optimistic about a big-box development [there] -- unless it is a destination."
Officials said that this would be the first time that D/FW or any airport has taken on this large of a retail project outside of a terminal.
Officials at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the world's third-busiest, are taking cues from a tiny airfield in south Fort Worth to pump big bucks out of the ground.
By the end of the year, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport's 18,000 acres could become home to dozens of natural gas wells as airport officials look for ways to pump up nonaviation revenues.
The Houston hay venture typifies a growing trend in airport management: looking beyond traditional aviation-related sources to bolster finances.