Transportation Center Welcomes Rental Car Operations

By Michael Waddell

The first two floors of the new $90 million ground transportation center at Memphis International Airport officially opened for rental car business on Wednesday, March 6, marking the latest in a series of airport upgrades and renovations aimed at improving the traveling experience for millions each year.

The newly completed Ground Transportation Center at Memphis International Airport brings all the rental car agencies under one roof.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

“The rental car companies have all moved over (from the previous off-site location), and they are all now operating onsite,” said John Greaud, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority vice president of operations.

Car rental companies like Dollar, Budget, Avis, Enterprise and National had previously operated off-site on Democrat Road, shuttling customers between the airport and rental center.

“Everything went very smoothly for our first day, and we think a lot of that had to with the fact that the Airport Authority really did a good job with the directional signage. It was a big help directing customers where they needed to go,” said Ned Maniscalco, spokesman with Enterprise Holdings Inc., which owns the Enterprise, Alamo and National brands.

The company is extremely happy with the new center.

“We think it is a great example of a facility where customer service will be improved,” Maniscalco said.

Customers now can walk from the terminal to their vehicle, and they drop it in the same location when they return.

“They’ve created a very efficient facility that allows us to wash and vacuum our vehicles without having to leave the airport,” Maniscalco said. “That improves efficiency for us, and it also improves emissions.”

The companies will still occupy the old off-site locations, but they will only be used for storage and heavy maintenance.

“The new facility here onsite allows them to do washing, vacuuming and fueling, but if they need to change the oil or rotate the tires they take it to the old off-site facility,” Greaud said.

The new center features a total of 2,100 rental car parking spots, and customers now enjoy the ease of riding the 840-foot covered pedestrian walkway that transports them from the ground transportation center to and from the airport terminal.

Construction on the seven-story ground transportation center began three years ago, and the project is coming in on time and on budget despite some last-second tweaks.

“There were hundreds of little things that needed to be tweaked,” Greaud said. “With a project that large, there are things that you don’t fully anticipate until you get into it and realize.”

Last November, the airport opened three of the center’s five floors that will be used for public parking, and marketing efforts will continue to tout $6 per day economy parking pricing.

“It’s a great product, and the people who are using it are really enjoying it,” Greaud said.

Previously, economy parking at the airport had been in uncovered surface lots that required shuttle bus service.

“The advantage of this new project is that 80 percent of the public parking is covered, and passengers do not have to rush,” Greaud said. “They hop on a moving walkway in a very nice environment, with landscaped fountains that provide a nice atmosphere, and in a three-minute walk they are in the terminal.”

The final two floors (six and seven) for public parking will be available for use this month, bringing the total number of available spaces to 4,500.

“Floor six will be available to open in the next couple of weeks. We will open it when we actually have a need. Floor seven will be available to open a couple of weeks after that,” Greaud said.

The project’s main construction contractor is Flintco, which is working with a network of 35 subcontractors.

Other ongoing construction activity at the airport includes the five-phase terminal apron replacement project.

“Each phase takes eight to nine months because we cannot shut down the terminal apron all at one time,” Greaud said.

Last year, work completed on the redesigned and expanded checkpoint at Terminal B, and other renovations were made to the airport’s family restrooms, escalators and elevators.