Reno airport bucks trend, proceeds with planned improvements |

Reno airport bucks trend, proceeds with planned improvements


RENO, Nev. (AP) – While airports around the nation are backing off on planned improvements after sharp cutbacks in air travel since Sept. 11, the Reno airport is moving ahead with a $3.5 million facelift.

The makeover will provide new concessions, retailers and a new look by the end of next year.

”Overall, we’re changing the look by private sector investment,” said Krys Bart, executive director of the Airport Authority of Washoe County. ”We have a contract in place for our new concession provider. … Part of that contract, they’re investing about $3 million. It’s not airport investment.”

The three-phase project will begin with the remodeling of terminal concourse concessions, followed by food court concessions and finally retail store renovation in the main terminal. All are expected to be completed by November 2002.

The improvements come as airports from Boston to San Francisco are halting or revamping billions of dollars worth of expansion plans because of fewer fliers and greater security concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even one of the world’s busiest airports – McCarran International in Las Vegas – has put expansion plans on hold because of reduced passenger volume, Clark County Aviation Director Randy Walker said.

”Everything we do is based on the number of passengers we expect to have,” he said. ”If traffic comes back, we will have to build things.”

In Reno, Select Service Partner, a division of British-based Compass Group PLC, will make an initial investment of $2.6 million to remodel the food and beverage concessions in both concourses. Additions will include a McDonald’s, a Brew Brothers, El Torito, TCBY/Yogen Fruz and Caffe’ Ritazza.

Compass Group USA has contracted to be the master concessionaire for food and beverage services through September 2011.

Paradies, the airport’s retail service partner, will renovate the exterior facades and interiors of retail stores incorporating natural stone and wood themes reflecting the Reno-Tahoe area.

Roderick McOwen, vice president of operations for Select Service Partner, said his company was taking a long-term approach.

”Select Service Partner operates in some 77 airports across 23 countries. You don’t just take a short term view,” he said.

”We saw the same thing during the Gulf Crisis, then things got back to normal and people went on with their lives.”

Bart sees the partnership with Select Service as a win-win situation.

”Investment from the private sector for the food and beverage will provide revenue,” she said.

While some airport projects have been shelved, Bart said it has no choice but to spend about $900,000 to replace the two escalators to the north and south concourses.

”It’s not a matter of aesthetics, it’s a mater of safety,” she said. ”They’re over 20 years old, they’ve way outlived their useful life, we can’t get parts to repair them.”

The Reno airport has seen a steady decline in passenger volume since American Airlines took over Reno Air, then axed most of the regional carrier’s routes 15 months ago.

Ironically, Bart says the hard times are helping now.

”While we have been struggling for awhile, we are now operating at bare bones, which has helped us move into this mode,” she said.

”During the past few years, the economy has been growing and most airports have been growing. Because of the Reno Air thing, we’ve been shrinking.

”Today, we’re in a better position because we have cut out all of the fluff at the airport. Most airports are just beginning that. We’ve already done that.”

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