Long Beach Airport Breaks Ground on New Parking Structure, Shows Terminal Plans

LGB - Long Beach

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.

New Long Beach Airport Parking Structure

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, Crowd at the LGB Parking Structure Groundbreakinghe 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.

LGB New Terminal Plan

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.

16 comments on “Long Beach Airport Breaks Ground on New Parking Structure, Shows Terminal Plans

  1. Was there ever any talk of getting a hold of some of the Boeing/Douglas area/buildings and just build a new terminal? While I’ve always thought of LGB as a trip to the past of aviation, it is way past it’s use for the 21st century.

    The current terminal would make an excellent aviation museum.

  2. Hopefully it won’t look like my hometown airport of Grand Rapids, where the new parking garage looks massively disproportionately large next to the original modest two concourse terminal.

    Oh and those (uninsulated, leaky, particle boad laden) trailers would make excellent classrooms for the LAUSD. I’m sure my relative who’s a principal would love them dropped off at her elementary school. Please think of the children.

  3. Does the airport management there still consider you to be “the great satan” for having the nerve to unfavorably blog about them?

  4. David SFeastbay wrote:

    Was there ever any talk of getting a hold of some of the Boeing/Douglas area/buildings and just build a new terminal?

    No, not that I know of. The building where they built the 717 is what is now for sale. The remote lot is part of that property. Unfortunately, it’s on the other side of the main street running north and south on the east side of the airport, so it’s not a good place for a terminal. The old Douglas hangars that built DC-3s and more have now been turned into Douglas Park, a bunch of commercial properties. There could have been a terminal there, but it’s on the opposite end of the airport from the usual departure runway and would have made for a terrible taxi time. I don’t know if efforts were made by the airport to buy that property or not.

    But the community is the biggest hurdle. The anti-airport group somehow equates improved facilities with dramatic expansion. So it’ll never happen.

    Here in LGB, we do like our old terminal building though – the convenience is great, and once this project is done, I think the experience will be excellent.

    james wrote:

    Oh and those (uninsulated, leaky, particle boad laden) trailers would make excellent classrooms for the LAUSD

    Well, down here the first in line would probably be LBUSD, but since they’ve spent a ton of money suing the airport trying to get this project blocked, I can’t imagine that discussions would happen around that.

    Frank V wrote:

    Does the airport management there still consider you to be “the great satan” for having the nerve to unfavorably blog about them?

    Actually, I don’t think the airport ever considered me the great satan. It was the city council that felt the need to pile on, though I haven’t heard a peep from them about it since that first flare up. The airport is actually thrilled to be moving forward with this now, and I’m still an active volunteer there.

  5. YES!!! Phase 1 of the Airport Expansion project under way. Why do I call it an airport expansion project? Hear me out…

    Phase 1 – Complete the parking structures
    Phase 2 – Complete Terminal upgrades
    Phase 3 – United, Continental, Southwest all ask the FAA to review LBMC 16.43, and look into it as a “Barrier of Entry”. The residents of Newport Beach fund all of the legal fees (and bribery.. err, lobbying efforts) involved for those airlines. :)

    I seem to recall that UA was the only airline to object to the Slot Settlement Agreement of yesteryear.

  6. Any idea how this will affect parking rates? I find it a bit silly that the lowest daily rate at LGB ($11 for the remote lot) is higher than at LAX ($10 for lot B after last month’s fare hike, and still as low as $6.50 with some private operators). I’d bet the $11 fare will go away when lot D does, and we might even see the other rates increase to pay for the garage. Terminal parking is currently a bargain compared to LAX, but if I need to leave my car for a few days then LAX has a price advantage.

    Also, any word on improving transit to LGB? It is currently served by one slow bus route on an approximately half-hourly schedule. Some obvious improvements would be to iron out some curves in route 111, add an airport loop to 102 to enable cross-town and Blue Line connectivity (M-F only), and extend Metro 266 to enable Green line connectivity.

  7. Ron wrote:

    Any idea how this will affect parking rates?

    My understanding is that it shouldn’t have much of an impact. Some of the more recent rate hikes should help pay for this. In addition, the lease expense on Lot D isn’t cheap, so there will be tremendous cost savings when that and the shuttle operation go away. So it shouldn’t have a major impact, and going forward, everyone will be able to walk to the terminal.

    Ron wrote:

    Also, any word on improving transit to LGB?

    This is a pet peeve of mine. I actually received a call for an LB Transit survey recently and that was my number 1 complaint. I ride LB Transit around town, but I would never take it to the airport. It takes way too long.

  8. Have you seen the 2 new bars in each of the respective double-wides? Yes, you heard me, a real sit down bar, with real booze. Granted, you can only drink behind the barriers, and not in the entire gate area, but I did find out that they are having to put it in now, so it cna be incorporated into the new setup.

  9. Nicholas Barnard wrote:

    This outdoor baggage claim intrigues me. Can we get pictures next time you’re there?

    The Orange County(SNA) terminal used to be like that also. The area was covered, but you are outside alone the sidewalk. The conveyor belt was oval and came out a hole in the wall and went for aways looping around and back into a second hole in the wall, then it would come around again. The other side of the wall was the interior baggage area for the ramp workers.

  10. Brad wrote:

    Have you seen the 2 new bars in each of the respective double-wides?

    I don’t recall seeing that, but it’s entirely possible. The airport has really tried to make the best of an overcrowded situation.

    Nicholas Barnard wrote:

    This outdoor baggage claim intrigues me. Can we get pictures next time you’re there?

    No need to wait, thanks to the internet. There are really 3 claim areas. The southernmost is a straight conveyor that you can see here. It’s sometimes used by JetBlue:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/18575617@N03/2048790019/sizes/l/

    The next one is the main baggage claim for JetBlue and it has some curves built-in to offer more space.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/emerika/534239124/sizes/l/

    The northernmost actually looks a lot like the southernmost one and it’s used by the other airlines. There’s shelter over them all in case it rains, but they’re all open air and quite pleasant. Burbank has something similar.

  11. Cranky, here’s an off-topic LGB question: I noticed that every weekend (or at least most weekends), either on Saturday or Sunday, a pair of F/A-18 Hornets come to LGB, do a go-around, and then land. Any idea what they’re doing there?

  12. Ron wrote:

    Any idea what they’re doing there?

    So there’s always been some level of military activity at the airport, but it has increased significantly this year. The reason? Los Alamitos has shut their main runway down to be refurbed, so the traffic has been diverted to LGB. I believe it’s training.

  13. As an architect, I freaked out when I saw your headline. But looking at the plans — they’ve done a really nice job! They’re really paying homage to the old building — I was afraid they were going to add some awkward addition onto the pristinely self-contained volume of the original terminal and thank goodness they have the vision to showcase it instead of eclipse it. Preserving the sight lines on the approach to the terminal and adding that garden space at the back are both GREAT ideas. The garden space in particular is a stroke of good design — the original terminal already begins to engage palm trees and garden space where there is a hole cut into the roof overhang to allow a couple trees to grow up through it. Very deco spirit. Very nice!

    Also — I disagree, I thought the original terminal functions surprisingly well considering the enormous changes in aviation since that building was built. I was expecting it to be a huge hassle and in fact have been very pleased with how usable it is. You can’t have an airport like that in any other climate than Southern California’s — we should be glad we have a unique opportunity to NOT let it become some dead, unimaginative museum! (aka mausoleum)

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Cranky Flier