Just as the Colorado Springs Airport begins its busiest holiday travel season in more than a decade, officials are getting ready to launch a major renovation of the main passenger concourse.
The project is expected to cost $10 million to $20 million, take three to five years to complete, and is designed to increase capacity; add food and gift options; make the airport easier to navigate for people with disabilities; and replace worn-out carpeting, aging mechanical systems and other upgrades, said Greg Phillips, aviation director for the city of Colorado Springs. Nearly all of the work will be done beyond the airport’s security checkpoint, which was expanded in 2013.
Phillips hopes to finance the entire renovation project without raising fees paid by airlines or passengers, instead using revenue from the airport’s Peak Innovation business park or funding from the Biden Administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure program. The airport received more than $8.5 million selling sites for an Amazon fulfillment center and delivery station and it also receives lease payments from parcels that house an Amazon sorting center, an Aerospace Corp. space warfighting lab and a parcel where an industrial complex is under construction.
“It has been 27 years since the passenger terminal was built and our passengers today have different and higher expectations. This gives us a chance to make the best use of the space we have,” Phillips said. “We plan to do this in a way that it will cost as little as possible and still end up with a high-quality facility. We are not trying to build a Taj Mahal, but a gateway to our community.”
Airport management has begun discussions with Colorado Springs architecture firm HB&A to design the renovation project, which Phillips expects to begin next summer with bathrooms in the concourse, which would be remodeled to meet current requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The airport also is seeking proposals from concessionaires to expand dining and retail options on the concourse. The project also will add seating to gate areas, increasing capacity by up to 10% to accommodate the airport’s growing passenger numbers.
Passenger traffic at the airport has surged with the arrival of Southwest Airlines in March and is expected to total between 920,000 and 940,000 this year, which would be the highest annual total since 2009. Those totals are expected to climb even more next year with Southwest operating for the entire year. The Dallas-based low-fare carrier operates 13 daily nonstop flights to Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Southwest also has added flights to San Antonio and Houston during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to test traveler demand.
Capacity isn’t an issue for the airport yet — no airline leases Gate 6 and airport officials are studying whether to adopt a “common use,” or shared model to wring more capacity out of the 12 gates on the concourse. The terminal accommodated 2.39 million passengers in 1986, when low-fare startup Western Pacific Airlines operated a hub from Colorado Springs, but that was before stringent passenger screening methods were adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Much of the rest of the passenger terminal has already been renovated, including the ticket counters, baggage claim areas and offices completed as part of repairs from a 2018 fire triggered by roof repairs. The airport also owns a six-gate temporary terminal annex built by Western Pacific, but the facility is currently used for offices and hasn’t been used for passenger service in more than 30 years.