The details of a $2.5 billion plan to build a new terminal at the San Antonio International Airport emerged Wednesday as airport officials briefed City Council on a number of upcoming solicitations for contractors and planners. 

The terminal development program encompasses the first set of projects included in the 20-year Strategic Development Plan that was approved by City Council in Nov. 2021

Those projects include new gates already under construction, a facility for boarding aircraft directly from the tarmac, a transportation center and parking garage, and runway and pavement improvements. 

The first phase of a new 17-gate Terminal C is also in the works with construction set to start in 2024 and completion expected in 2028.

“This is not a streets project. This is not building a fire station,” City Manager Erik Walsh said prior to the meeting. “This is a massive capital project. We’re making sure that we’re organized, that we have our team in place [and] making sure that the council understands all of the different decision points that they’ll be seeing, and they know that way in advance is going to be key.”

Two new concourses are outlined on an illustration board during an October community information session about the San Antonio Airport System’s Strategic Development Plan.
Two new concourses are outlined on an illustration board during an October community information session about the San Antonio Airport System’s Strategic Development Plan. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

The complexity of an airport improvement project also makes it costly. Funding for the terminal project will come from federal airport infrastructure grants of $59 million annually for the next five years, with another $150 million potentially available annually through a competitive federal grants program. 

The remainder of the cost is expected to be supported by passenger facility charges and other airport revenue, along with airport revenue bonds, but not tax dollars, Director of Airports Jesus Saenz said.

Pending council approval on June 2, a Dallas-based firm, Corgan Associates, has been selected from among seven applicants to provide airport terminal planning services. The one-year contract is valued at $3.8 million and will provide financial analysis, phasing and other recommendations. That work is scheduled to be completed in late fall, Saenz said.

In the coming months, airport officials also will hold pre-solicitation meetings and invite bids for several high-profile contracts valued at over $210 million. Those will be solicitations for an executive program manager, master architect, program management/construction management, on-call general engineering consultants, pavement management maintenance services, a ground loading facility and baggage handling system, and more. 

In addition, a request for proposals for new concessions in Terminal C will be released in the fall. 

Airport officials plan to brief City Council ahead of awarding each contract, Saenz said. 

“What we’re shifting towards today is the execution of the strategic development plan that will now turn into a terminal development plan,” he said. “It’s the execution phase of putting out the solicitations and putting out the information so that people [who] want to work in San Antonio [can].” 

The San Antonio airport averages 10.4 million enplanements, or passengers boarding aircraft, a year. Construction of three new gates, two in Terminal B and one in Terminal A, is already underway as airport officials say passenger activity is returning to pre-pandemic levels and that extra capacity is needed. 

“There are several days here in the last 30, 60, 90 days where we have exceeded 2019 [passenger] numbers,” Saenz said. 

With the addition of the three new gates and the ground boarding facility, the airport will grow to 29 gates, up from 24 gates currently. Another terminal would bring the total to between 35 and 40 gates, depending on the size of aircraft using those gates. 

New air service and potential service that airport officials are seeking is creating demand for the added space, Saenz said.

“We’ve got to prepare for that and as we look at the opportunity to park these gates, we’re running out of gates,” he said. The airport has a $5.2 billion annual economic impact on the city, and “as we continue to grow this, it’s only going to get better when it creates jobs, and it creates market share.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg urged city staff and council members to keep the project at the “top of the agenda” in order to achieve the goals set out in the strategic plan. 

“The comment’s been made before that we have attempted this in the past — a strategic development plan for the San Antonio airport. We’ve gotten some ways down the road with it, and then ultimately it falls flat,” Nirenberg said. “I would say that we’ve gone farther, we’ve gone faster, and we have more momentum behind this iteration of a strategic development plan any time in the history of this community.”

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) told Saenz that the City of San Antonio has lost “billions of dollars in economic development opportunity” due to the limitations of the airport and that Saenz was the “right guy for the job” to change that. But he challenged the airport director to ensure that local business owners have an opportunity to bid on and participate in the project.

“I do want to make sure that I drive home the point that … as we pick construction companies to do this, I’ll be looking for homegrown companies to be leading this effort,” Pelaez said. “I think we’ve got our own bench of talent here, right, who can execute on your plan.”

Also on Wednesday, airport officials announced the appointment of Tim O’Krongley as deputy aviation director. A former 24-year San Antonio airport staffer, O’Krongley is returning to his hometown to oversee the airport terminal program. 

In addition, one-year airport staffer Michael Garnier has been promoted to the airport’s executive team as chief finance and administration officer. 

Avatar photo

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.