Travelers using the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport will soon walk through a new terminal that’s inspired by the architecture of area wineries and that offers sweeping views of the rolling foothills nearby.
Construction for the $39 million project that’s been 20 years in the making and broke ground in October 2015 is on track to be finished by summer or fall — likely in October, according to an airport official. The completed exterior of the buildings can be seen on the airport grounds adjacent to Edna Road.
The 56,000-square-foot, light-filled terminal will be about four or five times bigger than the decades-old building it will replace, a reprieve from the cramped quarters of SBP that are increasingly impacted by a growing market of business and leisure travelers to and from the Central Coast.
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The new terminal, considered the “gateway to the community,” was designed by RS&H to reflect architecture found throughout the county, particularly buildings at vineyards. It’s similar to an airplane hangar or a large barn, constructed with modern, industrial materials with an eye on the surroundings.
Tall ceilings and walls of glass will provide visitors with views of the scenic hills surrounding San Luis Obispo.
“We wanted to maintain those views, so when people come into the community they can see those views as soon as they’re off the plane,” said Craig Piper, assistant airport director. “So you really just get the full picture of the community.”
The terminal includes a large space for the airline check-in and room for three security checkpoints, although the Transportation Security Administration will only provide enough staff for a single security checkpoint until the airport attracts additional flights.
After travelers pass through security in the new terminal, they’ll walk through an open courtyard. Once there, they can choose to stay outside or enter a large holding area as they wait at one of four gates. Airport officials are currently in negotiations for concessions.
New amenities at the terminal will include multiple charging stations at high-top tables, an outdoor area for service animals and private rooms for breast-feeding mothers.
With the addition of the Alaska Airlines nonstop daily flight to Seattle that began mid-April, the airport saw a 28.6 percent increase in passengers between April 2016 and April 2017.
Officials estimate that up to 200,000 people will depart from SBP by the end of the year with the addition of an United Airlines nonstop daily flight to Denver that is scheduled to begin in June. That’s after continual growth in traffic since a decline in flyers at the beginning of the recession, when 121,300 travelers departed from the airport in 2009.
All of this — new flights and terminal — is good for regional businesses, said Ermina Karim, president of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce.
The airport, she said, “is critical to our regional economy, as well as the success of our local business economy.”
Being able to travel to clients and customers in business hubs in and outside of California is increasingly important for the industries that are growing on the Central Coast, she said. The new terminal is an attractive asset for companies that may consider starting or relocating to the county.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect airline providing service to Seattle.