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St. Pete-Clearwater Airport prepares for exponential growth

Mark Parker



An aerial view of the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. Photo provided.

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) officials have secured funding to complete a $110 million terminal expansion they expect to accommodate one million new passengers.

Tom Jewsbury, executive director, said recent state and federal grants would allow the airport to complete the momentous project without incurring debt. He shared the news with Pinellas County Commissioners at an April 4 work session.

Jewsbury said PIE also decided to build a $40 million, 1,000-space parking garage rather than expanding a surface lot. He said the airport has $17 million “in the bank” for the project and will use rental car revenues to offset the remaining cost.

“All good news to share with you as far as the direction that airport is going in the course of the next five to 10 years,” Jewsbury said. “We’re very blessed that we’ve seen a lot of positive growth.”

A 2023 Florida Department of Transportation report found that PIE generated a $3.4 billion economic impact and supports nearly 21,000 local jobs. Jewsbury said officials run a “lean and mean” operation that remains debt-free.

He noted that PIE now offers 64 direct flights, atypical for a mid-sized facility. For comparison, Tampa International Airport provides 82.

Allegiant Airlines is the airport’s primary carrier and the fourth largest in Tampa Bay. Jewsbury said the focus is now accommodating recent growth.

He said PIE recorded under a million passengers 11 years ago and set a new record with 2.49 million last year. “One thing you have to remember … because everything is nonstop, the pilots, the flight crews, the flight attendants, the mechanics – everybody lives in their community,” Jewsbury explained.

“They’re not just coming, picking up the flight and flying out,” he added. “They’re actually contributing to this area.”

A rendering of the terminal expansion. Image provided by the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Allegiant is acquiring a fleet of Boeing 737s this year, and Jewsbury said PIE would be among the first to receive the new planes. Runway length is not a concern.

Jewsbury said concession revenue is up 32% in 2024. Rental car services provide $4.5 million annually. “There’s more that happens outside just the terminal and runways,” he said.

Commissioner Brian Scott noted that 15 million people visited the county last year, and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) has discussed offering a tourism-focused shuttle service based at PIE. He asked if the facility could accommodate the increased traffic.

Jewsbury said it could, and airport officials have discussed incorporating the service into their plans for a new parking garage. “We’re definitely interested in seeing that,” he said.

Property development

The airfield encompasses about half of the facility’s 22,000 acres. Several businesses also lease the county-owned land.

Jewsbury said airport officials continue working to develop vacant parcels. However, a lack of infrastructure and a propensity for flooding have impeded those efforts.

MarineMax proposed building a $38 million manufacturing facility at the airport’s nine-acre Turtle Club property in December 2022. Jewsbury said the company realized the project was not financially viable due to infrastructure costs and “floodplain issues.”

He said airport officials continue exploring other opportunities with Pinellas County Economic Development’s leadership. The vacant 130-acre Airco property is “another thing that developers have their eye on,” Jewsbury added.

Recent studies have shown that only 80 acres are developable due to flooding and stormwater challenges. Jewsbury said infrastructure improvements – including roadways, septic and stormwater piping and elevating the land by two-and-a-half feet – would cost around $30 million.

He said PIE is now “scaling things back” and focusing on aviation uses. While the Live Local Act allows developers to create affordable and workforce housing on airport property, Jewsbury said the Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the land is incompatible with residential development due to noise impacts.

“The developers – they want to develop it tomorrow,” Jewsbury added. “We’re certainly building towards that, but there’s a lot of challenges …”


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  1. Avatar


    April 11, 2024at1:34 pm

    If we could get some direct flights to ATL from PIE, that would open up the world.

  2. Avatar

    Tracy Moore

    April 10, 2024at9:35 am

    I don’t think we need double amount of planes low flying over our house. We get them,4:30am till nighttime. I can’t even imagine another million people a year . Sorry, it’s so loud and annoying.

  3. Avatar


    April 10, 2024at6:21 am

    This small airport was has been so smooth to navigate. Super easy pick up and drop offs. Have a feeling things are gonna get a bit bit more complicated with this expansion.

    I am concerned though that Allegiant is buying those Boeings. We know about all the cutting corners that Boeing has done.

  4. Avatar

    John Donovan

    April 9, 2024at4:38 pm

    Another example of the superior circumstances of Pinellas County. I wish PSTA could be a giver like PIE, instead of a taker.

  5. Avatar


    April 9, 2024at1:28 pm

    Love this airport! It is organized and easy to travel. Wish they had direct flights to Puerto Rico BQN

  6. Avatar


    April 9, 2024at12:14 pm

    Love those expansion plans. They are great for the future of our airport and the Greater PIE area. PIE is also serving several flight schools (#clearwateraviation) and we love our experience there; towered airport, more complex airspace and we get to see a great mix of GA and commercial aviation😉.
    I am hopeful that the FAA can provide additional ATC staffing as we hit pretty busy patches often.- thanks to our amazing ATCs!!
    And last but no least , the best flying ever! ( nothing can beat our beach views).

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