Tulsa airport concourse halfway mark debuts

Date: 28 June 2011
Source: http://www.tulsaworld.com
With a raised roof and new skylights, lighting, wall coverings, utilities, boarding gates and bridges, the west passenger concourse made its professional debut at Tulsa International Airport on Wednesday.

Or, at least the south 275 feet of it did.

The full extent of the $16.6 million transformation of the 500-foot west concourse won't be revealed until January, when reconstruction will be completed on the north 225 feet, airport officials said.

But early reviews are in.

"It feels like a totally different place," said Alexis Higgins, deputy airports director of marketing. "It's lighter, brighter."

Tim Cavanagh, station manager for Southwest Airlines, walked out on the aircraft aprons, checking out the airline's shiny new $500,000 boarding bridges before moving inside to look at the passenger holding rooms and boarding gates.

"We're happy with it," Cavanagh said.

Southwest Airlines moved from the north end of the west concourse into its new gates - B1, B3 and B5 - overnight Wednesday in preparation for morning flights.

Southwest employees were operating with new computer systems, new wall coverings, sparkling windows and with the smell of fresh paint at the gates.

"We have new gates, new gate readers and new boarding gates," said Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz. "We are at 17 flights a day out of Tulsa with six cities with nonstop service - Dallas, Denver, Houston Hobby (Airport), Las Vegas, Phoenix and St. Louis."

United Airlines will be moving to its new gate on the west concourse Friday, airport officials said.

Continental Airlines, which is merging with United, operates out of two gates on the east concourse, and it will be moving to the west concourse in early 2012, Higgins said.

In contrast to the south end, the north end of the west concourse now feels smaller, confined and dimly-lit, officials said.

But that, too, will change over the next six months.

Reconstruction of the lower level of the north end of the concourse has begun, officials said.

"The first part of next week, we'll start walling off the north end upstairs," said Jeff Hough, deputy airports director of engineering and facilities.

CNBC News Tulsa, the bookstore and newsstand, the Great American Bagel Bakery and the Varsity Grill will remain open during reconstruction of the north end of the west concourse, although access will be restricted slightly through the plywood tunnels that will block off construction work, Hough said.

"We began the B (west) concourse project on Sept. 7, just after Labor Day," Hough said. "We are 65 percent done with the project."

Still to be completed are the installation of new furniture and the finishing out of the business center - the 625-square-foot, computer-equipped, electrical-outlet-studded glass-walled room off the center corridor where passengers can plug in their laptops or do business in a quiet setting, officials said.

"The business center won't be set up until the end of the year, but you'll have tables and outlets so you can bring in your laptop away from the noise, sit down out of the way and get a little work done," Hough said.

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