SALT LAKE CITY — For the rest of 2020, the Salt Lake City International Airport will be a dichotomy of newly built facilities and the husks of old terminals and empty concourses.
It’s the price of tearing down an old airport, while at the same time replacing it with a brand-new one.
The former airport’s buildings are stripped and barren. Crews have salvaged the buildings of any valuables, and most of what is left are empty stores and disassembled parts.
The rebuilt airport’s first concourse opened its doors on Sept. 15, the beginning step in a $4.1 billion project to construct an entirely new airport.
Demolition of the old airport’s structures began almost immediately thereafter, said Mike Williams, program director for the Airport Redevelopment Program.
Currently, the parking garage is being torn down and the old terminals are being prepared for demolition to make room for the buildout of Concourse A as well as the central tunnel that will connect Concourse A to Concourse B, which opened Oct. 27.
“That was the first thing that needed to go because that is in the footprint of the extension of Concourse A,” Williams said of the parking garage. “So we opened one-half of Concourse A when we opened on Sept. 15, but now we need to build the other half.”
“So there’s a lot of work going on. The contractor is now starting to build up their crews so they can have multiple demolition areas going on at once. By the end of the first quarter of next year, Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 will be demolished.”
The former airport will be completely demolished by the middle of next year, he added.
Initially, airport officials planned to do a phased demolition, allowing for passengers to use both the new facilities and some of the old concourses to keep up with the volume of travelers.
COVID-19 changed those plans and saved the airport millions of dollars.
With fewer people flying due to the pandemic, officials decided to demolish the entire former airport at once, which will save $300 million and two years of time, Williams said.
However, the expedited plans could also mean a crowded airport once the pandemic slows and people resume flying in large numbers.
“It made sense, but it was also a very difficult (decision) because you’re trying to plan for the future to make sure you can handle the flight capacity as the recovery happens, ’cause we are going to have less facilities in the near term,” Williams said.
“(We’re) really trying to figure out when the recovery happens. It looks like 2022 will probably be a little bit of a challenging year because we won’t have a lot of new facilities yet.”
However, he did say that the airport has the capacity to build out to accommodate more travelers, if necessary.
“Now, at any point in time, once we’re through with the pandemic and there is a vaccine and people are flying again, we have set things up so we can build to the future,” he said. “So we can add onto Concourse B at any time. We’ve got those plans ready.”
The construction on the project began in 2014, and the new airport is expected to be finished by December 2024.