With machinery whirring in the background, local business owner Ethan Cisneros expressed his gratitude to the media on Tuesday morning at Salt Lake City International Airport as workers continued their development of Concourse B. 

“I’m literally just in shock right now. It’s amazing,” he said. 

Cisneros’ soda shop, Thirst, is one of 12 concessions scheduled to open in fall 2024 as part of The New SLC Phase 3 — a nine-gate expansion of Concourse B, complete with a mini-plaza featuring large-scale art installations. Five initial gates will open in October 2024.  

“The new airport has received national accolades for our concession’s program,” said Bill Wyatt, the airport’s executive director, in a statement. “These unique restaurants and shops are expected to garner five-star reviews as well.”

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In addition to Thirst, four other local brands were chosen: Cotopaxi, known for its colorful bags and apparel; The Canyon, showcasing local art; Sunday’s Best and its savory and sweet menu; and Weller Book Works, a staple of the state’s local book scene. It’s part of an effort to remind travelers all over the world that they’re in Utah, according to Wyatt. 

“It’s very important to us that we see a broad representation of local interests represented in the concessions program, frankly, represented in the look and feel of the airport as well,” he said. 

Jose Navarrete and Luis Resendiz, both with Daw Construction Group, work on phase three of the Salt Lake City International Airport construction outside of Concourse B in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 20, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

And as a local business owner, Cisneros says getting involved in the community is vital.

“It’s always been the way that we do business, whether it’s community events or supporting the community, or doing anything we can do to do more than just take money from the consumers in the community. And this is a huge step in that,” he said. 

The 12 new restaurants and shops were selected from a pool of 56 proposed concepts and will occupy 19,260 square feet of space. They are: 

Food and beverage:

  • Bambuza Vietnam Kitchen.
  • Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy .
  • Sunday’s Best.
  • The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
  • Thirst.

Retail, news and gifts:

  • Cotopaxi.
  • iStore Express.
  • Relay.
  • Travel Right.
  • The Canyon. 
  • Weller Book Works.

Other Phase 3 updates  

The world map has a new home in Concourse B. After lying on the old Terminal 1 floor for 60 years, a refurbished version of the distinct airport landmark will be placed by the escalators as visitors enter the area. 

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Additionally, two art installations made by Gordon Huether will decorate the plaza. “Canyon 2.0” will act as an extension of “Canyon,” seen along the walls in the main terminal, while “Northern Light” is a glass sculpture that will hang above the concourse. 

“(It uses) the dichroic glass, which reflects the light of the moment,” Wyatt said. “It changes colors throughout the course of the day.” 

Phase 3 also includes the opening of the Central Tunnel in October 2024, which connects Concourses A and B. It features another art installation from Huether, titled “The River Tunnel.”

Development of the Concourse B east expansion is well underway. When finished, the new area will consist of moving walkways with gates on either side. Concessions and restrooms will be in between. 

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Salt Lake City’s Airport Redevelopment Program broke ground in 2014 with the vision of a new airport featuring one central terminal and two concourses, replacing the old five-concourse horseshoe design. 

Phase 1, finished in 2020, introduced a new parking garage, a central terminal and the west portions of Concourses A and B, complete with 46 gates. Five of 22 more gates in Concourse A just opened in May, with the rest coming online by the end of the year.

The fourth and final phase will add 16 gates to the Concourse B east expansion, bringing the total number of Salt Lake airport gates to 94. That will be ready in 2027, 13 years after the project began.

“Whenever you build airports … you have to build it in phases. That way you keep parts of it open,” Chandler McClellan, the deputy program manager of construction, said. “I compare it to a chess game. You’re always moving parts and pieces, which is extremely complicated. That’s why you always have to have good contractors on board, good architects and engineers. You always have to figure out how you’re going to play that chess match.” 

A ‘river’ tunnel. More gates. Here’s what’s next for Salt Lake’s new airport
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