By Rob Sabo
Special to the NNBW
Sweeping changes are coming to Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority recently announced a multi-year development plan to upgrade and modernize key aspects of the airport to meet growing demand. The multi-year plan includes expansion of the ticketing hall that’s expected to begin this year, followed by large-scale changes to rental car operations in 2023, and capped off by redevelopment of the airport’s concourses in 2024.
Stacey Sunday, director of corporate communications for Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, recently spoke with NNBW regarding the planned infrastructure investments.
Here’s a look at each aspect of the airport authority’s renovation and upgrade plans.
Ticketing Hall Expansion
Expansion of the ticketing hall – as well as planned improvements to the loop road that services the airport – will have an immediate impact on travelers entering the airport, Sunday said.
“People are really going to see construction when they first come to the airport because that’s where you check in and check your baggage,” she said. “There’s no doubt it will be frustrating because your first look at the airport will be some road construction and ticketing hall construction.”
Work on the ticketing hall will extend the interior footprint of the area outward to where existing exterior columns provide support for the roof that covers the large sidewalk in front of the airline drop-off points. All that existing outside area, about 10,000 square feet, will be brought under roof.
“We have a huge sidewalk out here, and that should be put inside the ticketing lobby,” Sunday said. “It will allow more room for circulation, wayfinding and touchless travel technology.”
Another benefit is that new restrooms also will be added to the ticketing lobby, she said. Entrance to the ticketing lobby through existing sliding glass doors will change, however. Those entrance points will be closed, and travelers will have to enter the ticketing lobby from either the south or north end of the ticketing area.
“It's going to be a huge change for passengers, because you are going to have to be dropped off at the very beginning or the very end. If you are dropped off in the middle there will be sidewalk, but you are going to have to walk to those entrances to get into the ticketing lobby,” Sunday said.
Perhaps the toughest part, Sunday added, is that the changes will likely curtail the “Reno dash.”
“(When) you come to the airport, you can be parked and up to your gate in 20 minutes,” she said. “This is going to add a bit of time to your commute.”
The ticketing hall expansion is expected to cost between $20 million and $30 million and is expected to begin in September. The loop road reconstruction may begin as early as July of this year, Sunday noted.
The roadwork will provide critical improvements for safety, security and also meet full American with Disabilities Act requirements. Pickup and drop-off lanes will be reconstructed, and crosswalks will be consolidated, Sunday added. Shade structures also will be added to thwart the blistering summer heat.
RS&H Architects, headquartered at Jacksonville, Fla. is the architect on the project. McCarthy Building Companies of St. Louis is the construction manager at risk for the project.
Ground Transportation Center
This expected expansion of rental car facilities will improve passenger parking and provide for additional growth in rental car demand.
The biggest piece of the proposed $175 million to $225 million project will be construction of a new consolidated rental car (CONRAC) facility and ground transportation center (GTC) that will completely change the rental car experience at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Rental cars are currently housed in the airport parking garage and take up hundreds of spaces at a time when the airport has been unable to meet parking demand. The new facility will house all rental car operations, freeing up valuable parking spaces in close proximity to airline terminals. It will be located kitty-corner north of the existing baggage claim area. The facility will consist of four floors at approximately 180,000 square feet each for a total of 720,000 square feet.
“It’s a lot more inline with what other airports have where all the rental cars are in one place,” Sunday said. “It will allow for future growth – right now there really isn’t room for more rental cars.
“We know people love how fast you can get from your car to the airplane and from an airplane to your car,” she added. “The CONRAC will be within walking distance from baggage claim to be as convenient as possible.”
Parking at the airport will be expanded as well since the current area where rental car agencies wash and ready cars (called a quick-turn-area, or QTA) for the next customer will be moved to a new location, Sunday said. The airport will be able to reclaim approximately 530 spaces in the short-term parking garage, and an additional 200 once the QTA is relocated, she noted.
The largest – and costliest – piece of the airport authority’s redevelopment plan is the planned upgrades to the concourses.
Built in 1980, the concourses are extremely outdated and too small to meet passenger demand, Sunday said. The airport authority is still figuring out ways to fund the $300 million project, as well as determining if it should redevelop or demolish the existing concourses.
“They are 40 years old,” Sunday said. “The cost is nearly $200 million to stay in these concourses and make the necessary improvements that need to be done.
“We want to make them larger and brighter, and aircraft are much larger than they were in 1980 – we want to make sure we have holding areas and gates that can accommodate these larger aircraft.”
Passenger count at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in 2021 was more than 3.6 million passengers. That number is expected to increase to 7.3 million passengers by 2046, Sunday noted. Larger concourses also will allow the airport to offer more food and beverage options, Sunday said. The existing concourses at RTIA are 75 feet wide. A rendering provided by the airport authority shows expanded concourses that are 150 feet wide.
Airport executives said the entire redevelopment plan helps modernize Reno-Tahoe International Airport and better position it to meet the needs of the community.
“As we move into a new era for our airport, have confidence that we will work hard to maintain the convenience RNO passengers have come to know and the amenities that make our airport special,” said Daren Griffin, president and chief executive officer of Reno-Tahoe International Airport. “We appreciate the support we receive from our region and want to thank everyone for their patience over the next several years as we work to bring the facilities and services our passengers deserve.”