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Tampa International Airport is considering a new terminal in its 20-year master plan

computer image of airplanes and airplane terminal at tampa international airport
Tampa International Airport
A rendering of Airside D at the Tampa International Airport. Construction was delayed due to the pandemic but will resume in 2024 and is slated for completion in 2027.

Airport officials discussed the update on its master plan during a recent public meeting, which detailed the potential for a new terminal, an air taxi system and continued improvements to its main terminal.

Tampa International Airport officials are talking about how they plan to accommodate passenger growth in the next 20 years.

Annual visitor numbers are projected to grow from 23.5 million to 39 million in the next two decades.

Expansion projects included in previous versions of the airport’s master plan are already underway.

But during a public Zoom meeting Tuesday, airport officials said a major addition -- a new terminal to be built on the main hub’s north side -- is needed to address that long-term growth.

Preliminary plans show the terminal will be built where employee parking and air cargo facilities currently sit. The North Terminal, which would be built in phases, would add up to 45 new gates to the current 58. Different designs are being considered as the project is still in the planning stage.

 tampa international airport north terminal designs
Tampa International Airport
Preliminary designs for the North Terminal at Tampa International Airport. Airport officials unveiled the potential for a new terminal to accommodate passenger growth over the next 20 years.

“Once you put that stake on the ground, you get pretty committed to where you're going long term, so you want to make sure you get it right, and what I mean [by] getting it right means making sure that it's flexible, and it is responsive to whatever this community will need,” said airport consultant Pete Ricondo.

Another part of the master plan is resuming construction on the delayed Airside D, which is slated for completion in 2027 and will also expand passenger capacity.

“We anticipate that Airside D will carry [the airport] to about 35 million annual passengers and then you're going to start feeling the pressure for more gates,” said Ricondo, “And gates will really be the driver for North Terminal development. “

According to the plan, the North Terminal expansion will ultimately allow the airport to handle between 55 to 60 million passengers every year.

Other improvements showcased during the public meeting include expanding the Main Terminal’s baggage claim areas, modernizing the second-floor ticketing level, and preparing to accommodate needs for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), which involves cutting-edge electric aircraft that can take off and land vertically similar to a helicopter.

AAM technology facilitates short passenger flights and package deliveries between cities.

TIA’s last full master plan launched in 2012 with an addendum completed in 2016. The master plan is required by the Federal Aviation Administration and must be completed every 10 years.

That master plan included a three-phase, multi-billion dollar expansion, including the SkyConnect Automated People Mover system, which takes passengers to their designated terminal; the SkyCenter One office building, Blue Express Lanes for faster passenger drop-off and pick-up, and a state-of-the-art Rental Car Center.

During the meeting, TIA CEO Joe Lopano touted the history and future of the airport.

“We were the first airport in the world to have an automated people mover system,” said Lopano. “We’re the 26th busiest airport in the United States. That’s up from the 28th, so we’re growing.”

Lopano stated that the airport generates about $11.3 billion worth of activities, including bringing people to hotels, restaurants, and taxis. About 82,000 jobs are supported by the airport.

“We are truly the gateway to the west coast of Florida. We’re not just Tampa’s airport. We’re the region’s airport,” said Lopano.

To follow the progress of the master plan, visit tampaairport.com/MasterPlan.

As WUSF's general assignment reporter, I cover a variety of topics across the greater Tampa Bay region.
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