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VOL. 119 | NO. 66 | Tuesday, April 12, 2005

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By Andy Meek

Airport Readies to Roll Out More Changes

Terminal to fully showcase citys flavor by years end


The Daily News

For many of the 11 million annual travelers at Memphis International Airport, hectic flight schedules make it impossible to leave the airport terminal and explore the city. That means swarms of travelers leaving Memphis without the taste of barbecue, the sights and sounds of Beale Street or the flavor of local attractions like Soulsville and Pink Palace Museum.

Distinctively Memphis. Thats why, with a $25 million renovation under way that includes new retail options, airport officials are shining a spotlight on Memphis brand name.

Scott Brockman, executive vice president with the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, said several new retail shops and concessionaires will be unveiled at the airport with a distinctly local flavor. Retail stores will carry items from the Memphis Zoo and Soulsville, and high-profile local eateries such as Hueys and Grisantis Bol-A-Pasta will line the terminals corridors. Its all an attempt to elevate the airports profile, Brockman said.

And its especially intended for those travelers who cant leave the terminal.

Its all so that, even if you never leave the airport, you could get a sense of what the tourist things are for you to do in Memphis, he said.

Major revamp. By the end of the year, a major revamp of the airports concessions and retail operations will have wrapped up, encompassing changes or new construction at 46 stores over 18 months. New stores and restaurants at Memphis International Airport include Sun Studio Cafe and what will be the first Godiva chocolate retail store in any airport in the country.

Many additions been given high-quality treatment; at Maggie OSheas, an Irish pub that opened in the airport in December, some wood used in the restaurant was imported from Ireland.

Major projects. Besides those retail improvements, several outside projects are under way at the airport, including the Federal Aviation Administrations plan for a new air traffic control tower. In addition, FedEx is preparing to start site work on a spot to accommodate the A380 large-scale freighter plane and will build a maintenance hangar for it.

Its the largest plane that will fly commercially, and we will not get the passenger version in Memphis, but we will have the freighter version, said Bob Beesley, director of development for the Airport Authority. We anticipate delivery of the first ones in 2007 and then periodically annually till 2010.

Airport officials also are preparing for site improvement work on almost 200 acres at the southeast portion of the airport, Beesley said. That work will include the new site of the Air National Guard, which will occupy the facility in 2008.

Shops and activities. In the meantime, Brockman said one of the focal points of the renovation is happening in the airports B-concourse rotunda. Plans have been sketched to turn the site into a major retail area Brockman compared to a mini-mall.

The rotunda is where the airports largest number of shops and activities will be situated. The area is also being given a new visual treatment, with an elevated roof encircled by windows that will illuminate panels depicting Memphis scenes.

On the floor, a large-scale map of the world has been designed, with Memphis in the center of the room. Music notes, a large keyboard and a guitar radiate from the drawing.

Part of that hidden statement is just Memphis music, Brockman said. And it fits in with trying to provide that distinct flavor of Memphis, part of which is blues and the culture. There never used to be any natural light in the rotunda, so the volume of light that now comes into the facility is tremendous.

The plan is in four different locations around that circle; there will be translucent panels that during the daytime will be illuminated by natural light. And somebody standing down in the rotunda will get a picture graphic of the sights, sounds and feel of Memphis.

Seeing the city. The design is still being worked out, but Brockman speculated there will be a transportation panel that will illustrate the citys distribution and transportation systems, in addition to a panel focused on the arts. Other panels could feature Memphis landmarks and hype the citys distinctive sound.

The idea is to display a montage of Memphis scenes and images so anyone passing through the rotunda can learn something about the city.

Brockman said the major changes are an attempt to give travelers too busy to explore the city a chance to see what theyre missing.

Their travels will take them right through this gift shop area, so were trying to make it convenient for them and bring offerings that they would want, Brockman said. And all of this is intended to show that Memphis International is a world-class airport program.


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