Remodeled Salt Lake airport will be a boon for Park City visitors | ParkRecord.com

Remodeled Salt Lake airport will be a boon for Park City visitors

Park City stands to reap the benefits of Salt Lake City’s airport improvements

Parick Cone
Park Record Contributor

Patrick Cone

was well past time; time to do something about the antiquated, patched-together facilities at the Salt Lake City International Airport. Currently about 24 million passengers pass through on 329 daily flights on nine different carriers, using some facilities that date back nearly 70 years.  Amazingly, even with these constraints the airport still has the best on-time record in the country.

But now, planning for the future, this aging infrastructure is being replaced – not rebuilt – with basically a brand-new airport. And, what an airport. It's a work of art, technology and transportation. And, it will certainly have a big impact on the tourism industry, skiers headed to Park City, and the rest of the state.

After the project was initiated four years ago, by the fall of 2020 travelers will be greeted with the new 908,000 square foot, four story, $365 million terminal building, with its vaulting glass wall and cavernous space. They can park in the 1.7 million-square-foot parking garage, at a price tag of $158 million, just a walkway away from the terminal. They can then board their flights from the 827,000 square-foot South Concourse ($671.6 million). Locals will also be glad to know that expanded greeting areas have been designed, for those dozens of family members waiting for their sons and daughters returning from their two-year church missions.

Another concourse to the north is being constructed too, connected by an underground 1000-foot tunnel (which with prescience was constructed a number of years ago).  A second tunnel will also be built for $140 million. This North Concourse is slated to be completed in 2024, when the existing International Terminal and older concourses will be demolished. The five old spoke-like concourses will be replaced by two much more efficient linear concourses. No more waiting for a plane to be pushed back to get to your gate.

There is no other resort with such accessibility. It’s the hook-setter.

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And the new-fangled waiting area not only has a gas station, but convenience store and food options. The economy parking lot has already been completed. And talk about convenient, a Trax station will be right next to the new terminal, and your trip to a rental car is just a few steps, not a bus-ride, away.

"This is the biggest construction project ever in the state of Utah," says Leon Nelson, construction director for the project, "all while maintaining current operations as much as possible." Over 1,500 construction workers are installing baggage carousels, placing windows, building bathrooms and pouring concrete. The terminal alone has 29 escalators. "We basically designed the baggage system and built the airport around it," says Nelson noting that oversize items such as skis and bikes were accounted for, instead of as an afterthought.

The airport will be easier to use, more efficient, and sustainable, with a LEED Gold certification the goal.  "Right now, we're spending around $1 million a day," says Nelson.  Since there is an underlying earthquake fault, and a high water table, seismic upgrades were essential too, says Safety Coordinator Scott Hogg. More than 5,000 steel piers were driven 80 feet into the ground, then topped with over 7,000 stone columns to support the buildings. More than 14,000 cubic yards of concrete have been poured.

"We've also worked over 1 million man-hours without a single lost-time accident," he adds, "We could use another 300 workers too." This construction boom at the airport has made it more difficult for other construction projects locally, agrees Summit County Manager Tom Fisher. In the year 2019 the number of workers will balloon to 2,000.

As for who's paying for it, the $3.6 billion project is financed almost completely without taxpayer money, but with passenger facility and rental car facility charges, bonding, and less than 5 percent in federal grants for 14 miles of new roadway. The Salt Lake International Airport was the only debt-free large hub airport, so they were able to initiate the project with its savings. Delta Airlines, the primary tenant with its hub is also contributing financially and is part of the management team as well. Built on 300 acres, it's designed for future expansion.

So, what does this mean to Park City, and the possible encore for the Winter Olympic Games in 2030? Deer Valley President Bob Wheaton says, "It's going to have a huge impact to Deer Valley." Skiers can fly in, and be on the slopes within the hour.

Park City Chamber/Bureau Executive Director Bill Malone concurs: "The timing is perfect for the Olympic bid for 2030. Accessibility has always been a selling point; we're only 35 minutes from the airport. The airport will have a local flavor with local products too." Incoming Park City Board of Realtors President Sheila Hall knows the value of the airport when clients are seeking a resort home. "There is no other resort with such accessibility. It's the hook-setter." The new airport has never made it so easy to get on the snow.

Looking towards the future, the new airport is positioned to welcome visitors to our mountains. "I'm looking forward to it personally," says Ski Utah's Marketing Director Raelene Davis, "and what it will do for our industry." Probably the best selling point will be the magnificent view of the snowy Wasatch from the glass-fronted terminal, beckoning skiers to the high country. That's flying in style.