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Tampa International Airport unveils first completed project in $953 million renovation

The concessions receiving and distribution center is a 20,000-square-foot warehouse at Tampa International Airport.
The concessions receiving and distribution center is a 20,000-square-foot warehouse at Tampa International Airport.
Published Feb. 16, 2016

Tampa International Airport executives gathered Monday morning to celebrate the opening of the first completed renovation project in the airport's $953 million master plan.

The $8.9 million concessions receiving and distribution center offered a behind-the-scenes look into the 20,000-square-foot warehouse on the northeast corner of airport property, where goods are stored, sorted and vetted for safety before being offered for sale in the 65 restaurants and stores in terminals. It's the first of many projects that will open at Tampa International Airport over the next year, as CEO Joe Lopano and his team unveil new terminal amenities and upgrades to the property.

Construction across the airport, which includes building an automated people mover and a rental car facility, has been ongoing for more than a year. It is tentatively scheduled to be finished by the end of next year.

The concessions center will employ 20 people and is managed by Bradford Airport Logistics, a Houston-based company that will check the goods delivered to the airport and transport them to the correct restaurants and stores inside the terminal several times a day, said the company's CEO, Ben Richter.

Bradford manages other concessions center contracts at 12 other commercial airports across the country.

"This facility is a critical part to our master plan development, although it is a facility that the public will rarely see," said Al Illustrato, vice president of facilities and administration at the airport.

The concessions project was completed on time, despite site logistics issues and weather delays, Illustrato said, and cost almost $1 million under the original $10 million budget. About 400 construction workers helped build the facility. J. Kokolakis Contracting, Inc, a construction firm based out of Tarpon Springs, was the builder.

"This is one of the most high-tech concessions centers in this part of the country," Lopano said. "Tenants always know when deliveries are coming, which is within a 30-minute window."

In the past, Tampa airport concessionaires had to rely on vendors to schedule deliveries at the airport. The new center can more efficiently process and store goods, Richter said.

"There is this trend in airports now for more chef-driven local concepts, which require more fresh ingredients," he said. "We can deliver orders quickly and use routes that won't create more traffic for passengers who are trying to get to the terminal."

Inside the center is a fleet of trucks to deliver goods, a chiller and freezer. All Bradford employees must go through a standard security screening before work. Digital tools allow the company and security personnel to track packages via video once they've arrived at the center and are on the way to a restaurant or store in the airport.

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As of December, $175 million of the estimated $953 million has been paid through construction contracts and other related expenses. More than 4,000 construction workers have worked on airport-related projects since construction began in late 2014.

A slew of new retailers and restaurants will open inside the airport by next year, including a P.F. Chang's, Hard Rock Cafe, Guy Harvey Rumfish Grill and local brands like Four Green Fields, the Cafe by Mise en Place and Buddy Brew Coffee.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.