City officials plan to add a new terminal and parking deck to the Concord Regional Airport in next couple of years, hoping to increase the number of destinations and attract more commercial airlines to a facility known for its general aviation operations.
“When you look at general aviation airports across the state, you see they’re struggling,” Concord City Manager Brian Hiatt said. “They’re struggling because they don’t have the next step. We have the next step.”
That step would cost $13.5 million and would add a terminal with a fresh-food vending machine and indoor restrooms, a two-level parking deck with 600 spaces costing $3 a day and road construction to increase accessibility.
“The food options will be a more elaborate vendor option machine,” he said. “There will not be a restaurant planned for it right now. It will be a vendor machine possibly where fresh food is brought in.”
The projects are expected to be bid in July or early August, and finished in 2016.
“There’s been a steady pace of capital improvements over the airport’s history: extend the runway here, strengthen the ramp there, add taxiways, build hangars,” said Peter Franzese, Concord’s public relations and projects manager. “This certainly has a different flavor to it just because of the different type of service.”
In addition to general aviation operations, which are private and corporate flights, the airport currently is home to one commercial airline, Allegiant Air. From Concord, Allegiant offers flights to three Florida destinations – Orlando, St. Petersburg and, as of May 8, Fort Lauderdale . Deputy City Manager Merle Hamilton said that, with the expansion, he expects flight prices to stay comparable, but destinations to reach as far as Allegiant’s headquarters in Las Vegas.
Hamilton said the expansion is being driven by interest from commercial airlines.
“We’re in a position where right now we don’t have to market,” said Hamilton. “We have companies coming to us. We have Allegiant wanting to expand, we have other carriers who come to us wanting to be in the market.”
Hamilton wouldn’t say which airlines the city hopes to attract. “I’m not telling you,” he said. “There will be some negotiation there.”
After asking passengers what they thought about the proposal, most welcomed the idea.
“It sounds great,” said Jason Sharkey, an Allegiant passenger arriving at the airport. “I think it’s definitely needed because it alleviates Charlotte,” referring to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. “No one wants to deal with Charlotte.”
Though the airport does offer a cost-friendly, time-friendly alternative to Charlotte, competition isn’t the city’s goal.
“This is not to compete with Charlotte,” Hamilton said. “We’re talking about potentially two carriers in a building where people are there for a very short time before they get on a plane, and then they leave. It’s not like Charlotte, where you’re there two to three hours before your flight and you have the potential of your flight being adjusted. And that’s the allure. It’s a very basic terminal.”
The airport’s central location to Charlotte plays a big part in its commercial success and helps support general aviation, according to Hamilton.
“General aviation across the country is experiencing a decline for whatever reason. Not every airport is in a position to use their commercial side to help their general aviation side like we are. If we weren’t sitting right outside of Charlotte, they wouldn’t be here.”
The leading goal for the expansion is to further facilitate Concord citizens, commercial airlines and general aviation.
“We want to create an environment for the citizens, for the low-cost carriers, but we also want to create an environment where the commercial side of it helps us finance our core foundation of general aviation,” said Hamilton.
Total expansion: $13.5 million
Cost: $5.5 million
Funding: FAA, state and city
Features: Indoor restrooms, fresh-food vending machine
Cost: $5 million
Features: Two levels, 600 spaces, $3/day
Cost: $3 million
Funding: 90 percent ($2.7 million) FAA, 5 percent ($150,000) state and 5 percent ($150,000) city
Features: Access road, parking lots