As the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport ramps up its non-stop flights and continues to break passenger records, it will soon embark on a $106 million expansion to meet the growing demands.
“It’s really the traffic that is driving this expansion,” PIE Director Tom Jewsbury said. “We have low-cost carriers that provide point-to-point service and award-winning beaches that everyone wants to visit. Our ability to grow is because of these types of carriers, and the fact Florida has recovered faster than most states during the pandemic.”
Over the past five years, PIE has experienced double-digit passenger growth in serving Allegiant Air, Sun Country Airlines and Swoop Airlines, which offers non-stop connections to Canada. In total, the airlines have created non-stop connections to over 60 cities through PIE.
With the emergence of new flights and the expectation to add more airlines to the roster, a major component of the multi-year expansion entails building a new passenger boarding level on the second floor and adding more aircraft parking spaces. Currently, the airport has ground-level boarding.
Meanwhile, PIE will reconfigure certain spaces in the airport to become more efficient. For instance, PIE will reconfigure the current concession area as it does not serve customers post-security. PIE will also reconfigure the two-checkpoint design into a single large checkpoint for the two terminals.
The entire expansion will take place in five phases. Phases one through three are geared toward consolidating the TSA checkpoints, expanding the holding rooms, adding more concession space and vendors, and building a new level for passenger boarding.
Phases four and five call for a new pier concept, which is a narrow building for aircraft, that would extend to the north and bring additional gates.
The $106 million transformational project is a massive undertaking for the airport – however, PIE will not have to pick up the tab.
“At PIE, we don’t have any debt, and over the past couple of years, we have been working to secure needed funding through grants,” Jewsbury said.
The airport is poised to receive numerous local and federal grant dollars to fund the entire reconfiguration and terminal expansion.
On April 26, Pinellas County Commissioners will review approving roughly $2 million of a $10 million Florida Department of Transportation grant, which would be dispersed to PIE over the next five years. The funds will cover the design and environmental work required to get the terminal building expansion project underway.
This FDOT grant differs from others that require a 50/50 match. Jewsbury said he also anticipates receiving funding from the newly-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The overall expansion project is still in the conceptual stages, and more plans may emerge during the initial phases, Jewsbury said. He expects PIE to start on the design within two years and complete it by 2026.