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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘You are in for a treat’: Spokane International Airport unveils newly constructed concourse

Glossy terrazzo floors, windows that tint automatically and a 315-square-foot nursing room are just some of the features that can be found under the sloped steel roof of the Spokane International Airport’s newest addition.

More than 100 local business leaders, developers, elected officials and community members gathered in the airport Thursday for the unveiling of the west end of the Concourse C expansion. The addition, which is the first phase of a multiyear effort to grow the airport, will bring three new gates, six new ticketing counters and enough outlets and chairs to satisfy even the most tech-oriented, weary travelers.

Speakers at the event included County Commissioner Al French, Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell – who was instrumental in securing more than $59 million in federal funding for the roughly $150 million project.

“You are in for a treat when you see the finishings and you see some of the special amenities that are here for the traveling public,” Brown said.

Those amenities and improvements go far beyond the confines of the concourse itself, airport CEO Larry Krauter said. Visitors can look forward to a plaza with landscaped flower beds in front of the structure, and beneath the airport is a state-of-the-art baggage system estimated to cost $12 to $15 million.

Spokane International Airport Board Chair Ezra Eckhardt said board members spent years working with designers, engineers, architects and construction crews to bring the vision of a modern, expanded concourse to life. That work went as far as selecting the finishing elements, such as the mother-of-pearl terrazzo floors, the basalt tiles lining the wall and the spruce panels attached to the curved ceiling.

The end result brings a sense of the wilderness Spokane is known for directly inside, in appearance and literally – all raw materials used in the project came from within a 500-mile radius of the airport.

“A decision was made not only to support the regional businesses but help minimize shipping emissions,” Eckhardt said.

Even the new gate signs resemble trail markers, and the entrances to the restrooms feature tile mosaics of local features like Bowl and Pitcher in Riverside State Park.

Eckhardt said the renovation, as well as the phases that will follow, could not have come at a more crucial time. The airport was one of the fastest to recover post-pandemic among small to midsize airports nationwide, and a record-high 4.13 million visitors passed through last year.

Annual traffic is expected to grow beyond 6.2 million passengers by 2030, Eckhardt said.

“We expect that trend of growth to continue well into the future,” Eckhardt said. “That’s why we began laying the groundwork for the terminal expansion project several years ago.”

Cantwell stressed that the airport expansion is not only to better serve travelers, but to make the region a more attractive place to live, work and visit.

“In the United States of America, most economic development happens within just a few miles of an airport,” Cantwell said. “So if you’re not investing in your airport, you’re not investing in your economy.”

Cantwell said she was excited to see how much progress had been made since she attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the project in 2022. She also looks forward to the new destinations and passenger amenities the expansion will bring, the addition of local restaurants to the space within the next year and the environmental benefits of the structure, which was certified through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program .

“It’s great to be here with the airport board, with all of the community that made this happen,” Cantwell said. “Happy to have been a partner on what is such a great success story and can’t wait to get on one of these flights myself in and out of this great new terminal.”

French, who serves as the vice chair of the airport board, touted the economic benefits the project will bring to the region, which includes nearly 1,200 new jobs and $87 million in additional household revenue. He added that the project will generate more than $313 million in economic activity across the state.

“As Spokane County, my fellow commissioners and I are proud to support investing into this project,” French said. “Because at the end of the day, we’re investing in people: The families who live, work and are proud to call Spokane region their home.”

French noted the project was funded without the use of any local tax dollars, with nearly 40% of costs covered by a combination of federal grants. He thanked Cantwell for her support of the project, and her efforts to support the aerospace and tech sector blossoming in the region. Cantwell chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and has been a key supporter of legislation meant to bolster those industries.

The expansion is also an “incredible opportunity” for workforce development, said Hollis Barnett, vice president of Garco Construction. The Spokane-based contractors were responsible for the construction of the concourse expansion 24 years ago, and have partnered with Q&D Construction of Sparks, Nevada, this time around.

Barnett said nearly 20% of the more than 176,000 hours of labor spent on the project have been performed by apprentices learning new skills in the trades.

The three new gates in Concourse C will be used primarily by Alaska Airlines, and Krauter said passengers will start moving through the terminal in June. In the meantime, crews will finish some details in the addition before moving on to the next phase of the expansion.

The airport board and their construction partners will break ground later this year on phase two of the concourse expansion, which will focus on replacing existing ground boarding gates and matching the look and feel of the recently completed section. The expansion of the east end of the concourse is expected to be completed by 2025.

“This has been a long time coming, but I can guarantee it was worth the wait,” French said.