If the price of a plane ticket feels sky high these days, consider the cost of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport's planned expansion of its main lobby and food court. The airport says it will take about $585 million, and it plans to ask Charlotte City Council on Monday to approve $500 million to start construction.
Of course, that money is only a sliver of the $2.5 billion the airport hopes to spend on cosmetic and structural upgrades as part of its "Destination CLT" project, which includes adding more pickup and dropoff lanes, renovating and expanding concourses A - E, laying down a new runway and building a new control tower.
Ahead of city council's planned vote on the lobby expansion Monday night, here are a few key questions and answers about the project.
Where Is The Money Coming From?
If approved, the lobby expansion will be paid for by a combination of passenger fees, airport bonds, and airport cash.
Take note: The $500 million will only pay for the actual construction of the new lobby. The airport has also been requesting approvel to spend millions on designs for the new atrium, as well as inspection services and other miscellany.
When all is done, the airport estimates the total cost of the expansion will round out to about $585 million.
Are We Getting The Queen Charlotte Statue Back?
Yes - as seen in the airport rendering at the top of the page, Raymond Kaskey's bronze figure of Queen Charlotte will get a new home inside the expanded lobby. She used to welcome passengers outside the pickup/dropoff area, but she was moved in 2013 as the airport began construction on its hourly deck. Now she's standing between a pair of daily parking decks.
As part of the expansion, the airport's baggage and ticketing areas will also be expanded, and the number of security checkpoints will be reduced from five to three. The airport will also build a sweeping glass roof over the pickup/dropoff lanes.
The airport has not said how the expansion might affect the airport's "signature" white wooden rocking chairs, but given their popularity, they're likely to stick around.
Does The Airport Really Need A Lobby Expansion?
The airport says the changes are necessary to keep up with the rapid growth of passengers. Charlotte Douglas is regularly touted as one of the nation's busiest airports (Director Brent Cagle told WFAE's "Charlotte Talks" in 2018 it's the 10th busiest in the U.S.) and the airport says the number of people traveling through CLT has increased almost 80% from 2005 to 2018 - from 26 million to 46.4 million.
The current lobby and food court is also getting up there in age. The original building opened in 1982, with concourses A and B added in the mid-to-late '80s. The airport says their aesthetics could use some "refreshing."
Who's Getting The $500 Million Contract?
If approved, the contract would go to Holder Edison Foard Leeper, a joint venture. The construction company has been around for 75 years, and spent more than 25 consecutive years working on various projects at the Charlotte airport, according to the company's website.
The company is also renovating the Charlotte Convention Center in uptown, having secured a $98 million contract from the city in November 2018.
Want to weigh in? You can sign up to speak at the Monday night city council meeting through this online form. Just write "item 31" in the "item number" box if you'd like to talk about the airport expansion, or write "public forum" if it's unrelated.