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After pandemic delays, Tampa International Airport gets green light for new terminal

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board of Directors approved the Aviation Authority’s capital and operating budget for the next financial year, which includes the $787.4 million Airside D.
A rendering of Airside D (on the right) at Tampa International Airport. It's set to be finished in 2027, nearly 3 years after originally planned because of the pandemic.
A rendering of Airside D (on the right) at Tampa International Airport. It's set to be finished in 2027, nearly 3 years after originally planned because of the pandemic. [ Courtesy of Tampa International Airport ]
Published Sep. 8|Updated Sep. 8

TAMPA — More than two years since airport officials paused plans for a new airside terminal as the coronavirus swept the world, on Thursday morning Tampa International received the official go-ahead.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board of Directors approved the Aviation Authority’s capital and operating budget for fiscal year 2023, green lighting Phase 3 of the airport’s latest master plan and clearing a path for the construction of the new $787.4 million Airside D terminal.

It will be the airport’s fifth airside terminal and the first new one in over 17 years. The cost, higher than previous estimates due to inflation, will be covered with a mix of federal and state grants, and airport-issued bonds.

Construction is expected to start in 2024 and completion is slated for 2027.

Before the pandemic ruptured air travel, construction on the airside was expected to be finished in late 2024.

The new terminal includes 16 gates serving domestic and international travel and will enable the airport to serve an additional 13 million passengers by 2037, according to Josh Gillin, the airport’s senior manager of communications.

“Airside D will help us continue our tradition of staying ahead of trends and our region’s growth,” Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement.

The building will be about 563,000 square feet and include concessions space, an outdoor terrace, security facilities, as well as new screening, gate check-in and bag processing technologies.

A rendering of Airside D's integrated holdrooms at Tampa International Airport.
A rendering of Airside D's integrated holdrooms at Tampa International Airport. [ Courtesy of Tampa International Airport ]

In 2020, passenger counts at Tampa International dropped to their lowest levels since 1993. But the airport, which consistently ranks high in national customer satisfaction surveys, has recovered faster than most. It flies to more destinations now than before the pandemic.

The approved capital and operating budget projects Tampa International will serve 23.4 million passengers in the upcoming financial year which begins Oct. 1 — nearly a 9% increase from last year. Revenue is also expected to grow to $343.5 million, a $26.6 million increase from financial year 2022.

The master plan is a routine assessment done every five to 10 years, as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation. The last master plan was done in 2012, with updates in 2016, laying down the foundation for many projects in the airport’s recent expansions such as the SkyConnect transit system, a new rental car center, expansion of the Main Terminal, the new SkyCenter One office building, roadway expansion and the express curbside lanes.

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