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San Antonio Airport slated for a $2.5 billion upgrade by 2028, including new terminal

The San Antonio International Airport is due for an overhaul, city officials said this week, as it plans billions of dollars in upgrades and a new terminal, set to open by the second quarter of 2028.

The city council on Wednesday viewed artist renderings presented by Jesus Saenz, the city's director of airports.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced himself pleased with the presentation because it answered "yes" to the old question of whether the airport could remain where it is and still serve the city's future needs.

"I thought that if we could build the airport that San Antonio deserves that we would have one of the elite airports in the United States," he said.

Nirenberg noted the airport's close proximity to major attractions, something a new airport would not offer.

Saenz told the council the overhaul will meet the city's and airport's needs well into the future.

"We're not planning for just 2025, 2030. We're planning to 2040 to ensure we have capacity for growth as we continue to move forward," he explained.

San Antonio’s airport currently has about 24 gates, but the upgrades could bring that number of gates to more than 40 with the new terminal. It would be designed to accommodate larger planes which can travel further distances, something long desired by the business community. It also calls for a new ground transportation hub for bus transportation and booking services like Uber and Lyft.

It’s not an easy lift, though, as the city examines what it needs to add to stay up to date.

“Anybody that lives anywhere near here, or has used the facility and gone anywhere else — we’ve not kept up for a very long time," said City Manager Erik Walsh.

The new terminal of the airport is expected to be operational in the second quarter of 2028, and city officials believe that construction can begin by early 2025.

The new terminal space would add 832,000 square feet to the airport. The existing Terminals A and B could both fit inside the new terminal.

The new space would include club lounges, an outdoor courtyard, concessions, and an upgraded sterile corridor for international arrivals to go through customs and federal inspection.

The plans for the new terminal almost double the size of gate seating now found in Terminal A. Built in the 1980s, only 3,900 square feet is reserved for gate seating. It's not uncommon during peak travel times to see travelers sitting on the floor or leaning against walls in Terminal A.

The artist renderings presented Wednesday showed the new terminal will allow in more sunlight, including a large skylight over baggage areas, and more greenery along a paseo, inspired by the River Walk, that will sit further back from Airport Boulevard.

The design will also honor San Antonio's history, natural colors, and textures.

The renderings provided by the city are subject to change. As of Wednesday, only 15% of the design was fully complete.

Although there is no price tag on it just yet, early estimates put the construction of the new terminal and redevelopment of the airport at $2.5 billion. Some of that funding would need to come from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last year.

San Antonio had submitted a funding request but did not make the cut for the first year of disbursements. The city plans to submit again for about $45 million in funding.

Additional funding would come from fees that are charged to airlines per passenger.

The business community agrees that the upgrades are sorely needed to be competitive with other markets. San Antonio Chamber of Commerce chairman Katie Harvey said upgrades to the terminal development plan are milestones to advancing the ability to retain and attract businesses.

“We applaud the City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Airport System for this bold move and innovative thinking to improve our connectivity, enhance the traveler experience for locals and visitors alike and set the stage for SAT to become one of the premier airports in the United States,” she said.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules