It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my hometown airport here in Long Beach, so how about an update? The good news is that things are actually moving along quite nicely. Yesterday, they broke ground on the new parking structure and today, I’ve got preliminary plans for the new terminal. It’s fantastic to see so much progress since my interview with JetBlue CEO Dave Barger back in March set off a local firestorm.
The rain was nice enough to hold off yesterday and we ended up having a beautiful day for a groundbreaking. It may be hard to get excited about a parking structure, but this is incredibly important in Long Beach. The current parking setup isn’t sustainable, primarily because the long term lot is leased from Boeing. They’re trying to sell it, and when that happens, the airport will eventually lose the use of that lot. So, more parking was required. The easiest way to do that? Build a garage on the existing surface lots. When it’s done, all Long Beach airport parking will be within walking distance of the terminals. Here’s how it’s going to look from above.
That odd-looking structure in the middle is the new one, and it will be done by the end of summer 2011. (The terminal is on the left end.) Why is it shaped like that? They wanted to keep the lines of sight open toward the terminal as people come into the airport. Ok, fine. I’m just glad to see it happening.
Airport Director Mario Rodriguez said just a few months ago that he hoped to break ground by the end of this year. Sure enough, he did. Yesterday’s event was like most groundbreakings, lots of smiles and pats on the back for getting to this point. I was actually quite surprised by the turnout (at left). There were a lot of people there, as you can see, including some unlikely surprises. Perennial anti-airport activist Joe Sopo was there, and he even held a shovel for a photo opp. I don’t get it.
There were speeches given by several people including Mayor Bob Foster, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, Mario Rodriguez, JetBlue’s SVP of Government Affairs Rob Land, and other local business leaders. Most people were praising Mario for his efforts in finally making this happen after years of waiting. Only Gerrie Schipske had a different message – she wanted everyone to know that the city council has been doing things right all along. Lots of confused looks in the audience at that message.
I spoke with JetBlue’s Rob Land after the ceremony and he simply reiterated the airline’s commitment to Long Beach. They’re very pleased to see things moving along, and they had a pretty large turnout of crewmembers to show their support.
Now the next hurdle is the terminal. The plan is to break ground by the end of next year. Will it happen? They’re making progress. I’ve gotten my hands on a few sketches of the current design. Here’s what it should look like, assuming the design doesn’t get tweaked too much.
I’ve gone ahead and marked the double wide trailers that are currently on the property. They will both mercifully be ditched, hopefully burned down and forgotten completely. In the new terminal, customers will continue to check-in where they do now in the historic terminal building. Baggage claim will also continue to be outside on both sides where it is now. It’s everything in between that changes.
To go through security, you will walk in the way you used to – through the existing structure which currently has JetBlue security and a gate area along with bathrooms. That whole thing will be converted into a large, single security checkpoint for the entire airport. Hooray.
After, you’ll walk outside into a garden area (in green). From there, you’ll be able to turn left or right to get to the two holdrooms where customers will continue to board via airstairs at ground level. The garden area in the middle will actually have palm trees sticking up, framing the old terminal from the airside. There will be a variety of concessions and restrooms throughout. Pretty nice plan huh?
Sure, I’d like to see it built a little bigger, but this plan maxes out the amount of space that can be used for holdrooms in the environmental impact report. So while they could build the terminal bigger, it wouldn’t really impact the customer.
Overall, I like what’s happening. The ground-breaking yesterday was nice, but I think everyone sees it as an appetizer to next year’s main course groundbreaking on the terminal improvements. That’s when the real party begins.