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story.lead_photo.caption This architect's rendering shows the terminal at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport after a proposed renovation. Airport directors on Wednesday got preliminary numbers for the project and an idea of what it will look like. Now, they have to find about $60 million to do the work.

HIGHFILL -- Regional airport directors got some preliminary cost estimates and an idea of what a renovated terminal might look like Wednesday; now they just need $60 million to pay for the work.

Architects from Hight Jackson Associates showed directors a series of renderings of the proposed work, which is expected to include a new entrance and bridges that will give the terminal a new face; second floor terminal renovation; and, a revamped arrival lobby and baggage claim area. Members of the operations committee said they like the look.

By the numbers

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport

• Enplanements at XNA are up 15.1 percent year-to-date.

• Enplanements are up 23.4 percent from May 2018 to May 2019.

• XNA is on track to break 900,000 enplanements this year, up from 788,261 last year.

Source: Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport

"We'll spend the summer trying to figure out how to pay for this," said Larry Perkin, with Hight Jackson. "Once again, this is a concept, so we can massage it."

The three projects, based on square footage, are expected to cost just over $60 million. The cost could change, depending on how the spaces are built out and furnished.

"That's everything except for concourse B, which is $70 million-ish probably. That's just ballpark," said Aaron Burkes, executive director at the airport.

The projected costs are based on 2019 dollars. Architects recommend 5 percent be added for each year between 2019 and the time of bidding.

Finance people at the airport will work with architects and engineers to shore up cost estimates, develop a financial model laying out all available streams of revenue and create a timeline. They hope to bring options to the board in August.

Board members will prioritize the terminal renovation and other projects, like the access road and a new concourse, and come up with a schedule.

"We're talking about well over $100 million in projects," Burkes said. "That's Concourse B, that's the new front of the building and all that. The big unknown is the access road, we don't know the timing on that yet, there are a lot of unknowns."

Airport officials decided earlier this year to partner with the Arkansas Department of Transportation in an effort to get the long-sought access road built. The original plan of a long driveway to the airport, from U.S. 612 at Elm Springs, will likely be shelved in favor of a road that runs by XNA and opens up access to western Benton County.

Growth is pushing the improvements. Boardings at XNA have consistently beaten expectations in recent years and are up more than 15 percent so far this year.

For example, the expectation was there would be 900,000 boardings by 2024, but all indications are that number will be surpassed later this year, if boardings continue to increase at the 15 percent rate.

The timing of projects at the airport are generally linked to boarding milestones.

"I think that the board is probably going to want to do part of this really quickly, actually start on construction next year,' Burkes said. "And, I suspect, it's going to be the front of the terminal and the bridge and all of that part of it. But, we don't know yet."

The full board is expected to meet next June 26.

NW News on 06/13/2019

Print Headline: XNA directors see renderings of renovated terminal

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