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Airport, region ‘growing like gangbusters’

Mark Parker



Tampa International Airport officials presented their latest master plan update to St. Petersburg stakeholders Wednesday night. Photo provided.

Officials from the nation’s top-ranked large airport – Tampa International – updated St. Petersburg stakeholders on a master plan that includes a long-awaited new terminal to keep pace with precipitous growth.

The Museum of the American Arts & Crafts Movement hosted Tampa International Airport’s (TPA) latest 2022 Master Plan Update, a three-phase process mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) every five years. The plan discerns local and regional needs, reflects emerging trends and guides future development.

Joe Lopano, CEO of TPA, noted the importance of sharing its wins and blueprint for the future with stakeholders across the bay, as 22% of passengers originate from Pinellas County. Jeff Siddle, vice president of planning and development, oversees the construction of nearly $1 billion in ongoing master plan projects.

“Our region is growing like gangbusters, as everyone in this room knows,” said Siddle. “It is so important for our airport to accommodate the growth of the community and region around us … We must be good stewards of our property.”

Lopano kicked off the presentation with some recent highlights. He noted TPA is 50 years old and for decades never originated a flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. It now offers daily flights to the United Kingdom’s largest and most-frequented airport – and the seventh busiest in the world.

Lopano highlighted a picture featuring himself, Mayor Jane Castor and other Tampa and St. Petersburg partners standing in front of a new Virgin Atlantic Airbus 330 that now offers nonstop flights to Heathrow. He also noted new flights to Frankfurt, Germany, and said TPA officials are “not done yet, though.”

“The largest markets that we’re chasing are on the West Coast,” added Lopano. “And you can see at San Diego, 203 passengers daily, each way, without a nonstop flight.”

At a recent conference in Las Vegas, which Lopano likened to industry speed dating, he said TPA officials introduced the Tampa Bay market to 37 various airlines. He also noted the airport’s continued customer service improvements, as J.D. Power ranked the facility first in traveler satisfaction among North America’s large airports in September.

A recently installed flamingo sculpture greets a small passenger at TPA. Photo: Instagram.

Soaring growth

Siddle called TPA’s improvements and expansion remarkable and said its growth aligns with the region. The most significant project is the first new terminal in two decades – Airside D.

Officials plan to break ground on Airside D in 2024 and complete construction in 2027. Its three levels will encompass 560,000 square feet and include 16 new gates for domestic and international travel, bringing the total to 74.

The new airside will also bring new concessions, vendors and an outdoor terrace.

Tampa International’s Authority Board approved nearly $790 million in funding for the terminal, part of Master Plan Phase 3, in September. The airport’s FY2023 Capital Budget is $891 million.

Pete Ricondo, senior vice president of Ricondo & Associates, advises airport officials through the master plan process. He noted the first two phases – “decongestion” and “enabling” – are now complete.

“If you go into the airport today compared to when you walked into the airport in 2010,” said Ricondo. “It’s a whole different feel … and a whole different experience.”

He explained that 20-year forecasts, approved by the FAA, validated the master plan and new terminal’s scale, cost and implementation timeline. The airport expects to ferry over 23 million passengers in the next fiscal year, hit 35 million in 2037 and double next year’s total by 2042.

According to an FDOT Aviation Impact Study, the nation’s 28th busiest airport generates an annual economic output of $14.4 billion and supports 121,000 jobs. TPA projects $317 million in operating revenues for FY2022, a significant increase from the $271.7 million accrued in 2019 before the pandemic.

Jeff Siddle, vice president of planning and development for TPA, said the airport is engaging with electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aviation companies at a previous meeting. Screengrab.

Airport officials, Ricondo relayed, continue factoring emerging technologies into their plans. That includes electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles to transport people between cities and throughout the region, and new innovations to move passengers inside the new terminal.

“This airside is really going to write the next chapter for the Authority’s (Board) delivery of a world-class facility,” said Ricondo. “And, more importantly, a world-class passenger experience for those traveling to and from Tampa International.”



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