The most significant renovation in the Fayetteville Regional Airport’s history is scheduled to take off by the end of next year.
Design documents on what will be a $34 million renovation project are almost done, and by January, engineers will begin crafting the construction documents, said Toney Coleman, the assistant airport manager.
He said the city hopes to advertise for construction bids by July, with work beginning by next November.
The renovation – the first of its scale since the city airport opened in 1969 – is expected to take about two years to complete, he said.
The airport, which had 20,229 passengers take off in October, will remain open during the renovation.
Donald Warren, chairman of the Fayetteville Airport Commission, said a consultant and airport management have assured the board that construction would cause only “minimal inconvenience” to airport passengers.
“There will, of course, be some adjustments around the security gate,” Warren said, referring to the area where passengers are screened before going to the boarding gate. “So traffic patterns may change a bit.”
The work includes expanding and improving Concourse A; upgrading the baggage carousels; improving public bathrooms; and replacing the building’s heating and air conditioning systems, as well as the large, leaky windows on the second floor of the terminal building.
The front of the terminal will be expanded, taking up at least the first row of parking in the short-term lot. That will make room for new escalators, elevators and stairs to the second floor.
In addition, the ticketing counter will be remodeled, and the baggage screening area will be moved out of the public area.
The overhaul will include the addition of a long-awaited second security screening area for passengers.
“The biggest bottleneck that we have is the security checkpoint,” Warren said.
In 2014, the airport director, Brad Whited, initially pegged the renovation at around $25 million, but Coleman sought to clarify that figure in an interview last week.
Coleman said the airport expects to receive about $25 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration for the renovation. The airport, he said, will use its reserves and revenues to contribute about $9 million toward the project, for a total of $34 million.
Some of that cost, Coleman said, already has been spent on preliminary work for the renovation.
No city tax dollars are used to operate the airport, which relies on grants, rents and a $4 fee per passenger.
The airport is served by three airlines, with a combined 17 daily flights.
The number of departing passengers through the first 10 months of this year is down 4.7 percent, compared with the same period last year. Coleman attributed the decline to reduced military activity and deployments and a construction project that forced the airlines to use smaller planes for several months so they could turn around more easily.
October saw the opposite trend, with passenger growth up by 7.1 percent, compared to October 2014, Coleman said.
About seven years ago, passenger traffic was growing by more than 10 percent annually, and the airlines switched to larger jets to fly more people.