The renovation of the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport took a major step forward on Wednesday as workers installed the final steel beam for the new terminal project with a goal to finally open the space by the fall.
Local officials, including U.S. Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, attended the ceremony, which marks a significant achievement in the project that has been a five-year effort since initial planning and will cost about $40 million overall when finished next year.
“This ceremony is the start of a new era of local air travel in Sonoma County,” Huffman said. “The completion of this new terminal will not only significantly improve user experience, but also encourage more local and sustainable travel.”
Airport visitors have had to manage workarounds since the construction project began in November 2020 for the facility first built by the U.S. Army in the 1940s. It is intended to handle a greater capacity with an anticipated record 700,000 passengers who will travel through the airport this year, said Jon Stout, airport manager. In 2019, the airport had 488,000 passengers.
“We have a strong interest in demand for our carrier partners. They added frequency for the year,” said Stout, who added that there may be more than 20 daily flights by the fall.
The airport has already put in place its new ticket counter section. The focus will now go to inside construction of the new 30,000-square-foot section, which will be highlighted by the new terminal for Alaska and Avelo airlines. That space will resemble a modern barnlike building that showcases natural light from skylights along with wood paneling of the roof.
“It’s meant to blend and honor the rich agricultural heritage of this area,” said architect Erick Schroeder.
The new terminal will have 238 seats and four ticket counters along with two gates to the aircraft. The plan is to open it for use by October, Stout said.
It will connect via a pathway to the current terminal that will still be used by American and United airlines, Stout said. The new space also will include a limited food service concession area inside the terminal and there are plans for a wine bar along with an outside patio, Stout said.
A new baggage claim area that will feature two separate carousels is also being constructed just south of the new terminal. That space, which also will feature car-rental ticket counters, will be outside the security checkpoint and just next to the Sky Lounge restaurant.
The project this year received an additional $8.2 million for expansion of the baggage system, an upgrade of furniture and a covered walkaway for the western side of the addition. Work crews in the future also will have to finish construction of the front vestibule for the airport as part of the final stage of construction, Stout said.