TAMPA — The options for eating and drinking at Tampa International Airport will be revamped and expanded in the next three years. But Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who sits on the board that runs the airport, had this question about those options during Thursday's board meeting:
How can the airport make sure that Tampa Bay's iconic local brands are part of that new lineup?
The problem is that the airport receives federal funding, and federal law prevents it from giving preference to local businesses.
Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano had an answer: The airport can demand in the new concession contracts that the concessionaires themselves bring local options to the airport.
"We will specify that we want local concepts, local flavor," Lopano said.
Last year, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board agreed to spend $1 billion to build new airport facilities and upgrade old ones. Construction will begin later this year and finish in 2017.
Part of that project is a $122.5 million revamp of the third-floor terminal. That part also calls for bringing a bigger and newer mix of shopping and dining options to the terminal and four airsides.
The airport has local brands such the Columbia Cafe in Airside E, an offshoot of the Colombia Restaurant. There's also Cigar City Brewing, the Green Iguana Bar & Grill and Shula's Bar & Grill.
But the old concession contract expires in September 2015, and the airport wants to remake its concession areas and lineup while it renovates the entire third-floor terminal.
The airport announced at Thursday's meeting that it will start requesting proposals from new concessionaires in July. Officials won't start ranking the bids until December, and then the board will approve the new contracts in the second quarter of 2015.
The airport plans to create 106,800 square feet of new storefront concession space. That's a 22 percent increase from the current 87,300 square feet of concession areas.
There will also no longer be storefronts in the center of the terminal. Those businesses will be pushed out to the walls to open up the center of the terminal. There will also be less concession space in the terminal and more added to the airsides.
"That will help increase revenue because people tend to spend more money and more time in the airsides," said airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps.
The new plan will also make more services available throughout the airport. For example, the new plan will make massages and manicures available in all of the airsides, not just the main terminal.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, email@example.com or @jthalji on Twitter.