Airside Concourse Provides Sacramento Feel with the Comforts of Home

Kimberly Kaiser
Published in: 

The 316,000-square-foot airside concourse in the new Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport (SMF) includes 19 gates, concessions with local ties, upgraded seating with built-in power and a dual-shuttle automated people mover to connect it to the landside terminal.


Project: Airside Concourse

Location: Terminal B, Sacramento Int'l Airport

Gates: 19 gates

Other Key Areas: International Arrivals Facility, pre-gate concessions

Design Team: Corgan  Associates, in association with Fentress Architects

Construction Contractor: Turner Flatiron, in association with Teichert Construction

Environmental Assessment: URS

Seating: Arconas

Concessions: HMSHost; SSP; The Paradies Shops; Pacific Gateway Concessions

Signage: GNU Group

Advertising: Clear Channel Airports

Crowd Control: Visiontron Corp.

Boarding Bridges: ThyssenKrupp Airport Systems

Preconditioned Air for Boarding Bridges: Inet

Designed by Corgan Associates, in association with Fentress Architects, it also includes a uniquely Sacramento vibe.

"It's the first thing most people see when they arrive in Sacramento, and it's the last thing a lot of visitors see when they leave," explains Curt Fentress, lead designer, Fentress Architects. "We wanted to make it a real welcoming gateway, a nice experience that feels good."

Before the new concourse could be built, however, an existing taxiway and apron had to be demolished and a new crossfield taxiway installed. Airside construction was managed by Turner Flatiron, in association with Teichert Construction.

Given the sheer number of participants involved in the project, communication and cooperation were critical. Gary Ralls, senior project manager for Turner Construction, points to "pure collaboration" between the program manager, architect, contractor or joint venture and the county airport system as the key to the project's success. The relationships led to a noteworthy level of trust that allowed the project to continue forward when there was an issue to be solved, Ralls explains. "No one ever stopped construction and waited," he notes. "We were always able to move forward with the trust level knowing that a fair resolution would be garnered at the end. "

Moving Right Along

The master planning process in 2000 revealed how much the community appreciates short walking distances, notes Leonard Takayama, deputy director of special projects at SMF. Ultimately, an automated people mover system was added to connect the landside terminal and airside concourse. "Right now we're maintaining a walking distance that is no different than in our Terminal A," Takayama explains, noting that it's about 900 feet from the security checkpoints to the farthest gate.

When passengers exit the people mover, the hierarchy of space automatically guides them to where they need to go, explains Brent Kelley of Corgan Associates. Their first stop is the security checkpoint. With 10 lanes to screen about 70% of the airport's passengers (vs. six lanes for 66% in Terminal A), Takayama is optimistic about processing speed. "That's going to be an advantage," he predicts.

The rationale for locating the security checkpoint in the airside concourse was two-fold. The first reason, notes Kelley, relates to the airport's ultimate master plan, which includes the potential for Terminal A to be converted to airside Concourse A, which would involve adding a second train from Terminal B.

Like the new Terminal B, the existing Terminal A already has a security checkpoint. If it is ever converted to an airside concourse, both terminals would have their own security checkpoints, Kelley explains.

The second reason relates to customer service. "When an airport facility only has one checkpoint, it can become a major bottleneck," he reasons. "If you are trying to get everyone through one portal, and one airline has 20 flights going out and another only has one flight, that airline with one is subject to the crowds of the 20."

The diversification of two checkpoints not only helps with crowd management, but also with potential emergency operations. In the event of a security breach, TSA would only have to vacate the affected area vs. all the buildings if there were just one checkpoint, explains Kelley.

Food With Local Flair

Once passengers clear security, they are in the heart of the linear concourse, with retail shops, sit-down restaurants, a food court and take-away food options. The main concessions offerings are presented to passengers before they make their way to the gates, Kelley specifies.

Four different companies handle the concessions: HMSHost, SSP, The Paradies Shops and Pacific Gateway Concessions.

The airport specifically asked for local restaurants and purposefully stayed away from national fast food chains, reports Takayama. "We don't have McDonald's or Burger King in this building," he notes.

After considering many options, HMSHost partnered with two local businesses: Esquire Grill and Burgers & Brew. "There are so many great restaurants in Sacramento, the decision of who to partner with was all the more difficult," says Anne Duffy, media director for HMSHost.

"Esquire Grill is a Sacramento institution, known as the go-to eatery for the Sacramento business and political community, city visitors and convention-goers," notes Duffy. She describes Burgers & Brew as a "trendsetter" in the Sacramento restaurant scene that is known for its fresh ingredients and innovative menu.

SSP also worked with local restaurants to add Sacramento flair to its concessions options. Cafeteria 15L, Jack's Urban Eats and Dos Coyotes are three Sacramento brands in the new concourse.

Dos Coyotes is a Mexican restaurant in the food court area. SSP executive vice president Pat Murray notes that consumers have high expectations for Mexican food in California - particularly in Sacramento, where most of the produce used is actually grown in Sacramento basin. "When you're landing in Sacramento, you come over what looks like one field after another after another of some type of produce being grown," Murray relates.

SSP also manages its own brand, Camden Food Company, which highlights healthy foods, including fat-free and gluten-free options. With sandwiches, soups, a salad bar and packaged goods, Murray says it resembles a mini-market more than a traditional store. "But there's an element of fun and whimsy," he adds.

Roddy McGowan, executive vice president of Pacific Gateway Concessions, agrees with the airport's focus on the local community. PGC manages two retail spaces: the pre-security Sacramento Bee News 'n More and another shop after security linked with U.S. News & World Report.

Wayfinding Without Clutter

After researching what color combinations work best for visually impaired visitors, signage designers used well-defined orange symbols on blue backgrounds for maximum visibility. Signs are also internally illuminated, so they glow even from a distance.

"You don't have to get all the way up on them before you can really tell what the information is," describes Kelley. "All of those things combined really help provide a kind of a soothing sense to your wayfinding and direct you along this circulation path to your individual decision-point locations."

GNU Group, which developed the wayfinding program, worked to place signs and information strategically, in sync with the natural flow of the terminal. "We wanted to be careful not to 'over-sign' the project - especially since there are so many open spaces," explains GNU principal Tom Donnelly. "We really didn't want the signs to clutter up the clear views or take away from the architecture."

The wayfinding program begins outside on the airport roads, extends through the landside terminal building and into the airside concourse. In addition to facilitating the public's use of the facility, the signs aid airport workers and support public safety efforts, notes Donnelly.

A number of advertising displays were also added. SMF works with Clear Channel Airports to provide advertising opportunities. Like GNU, Clear Channel guarded against disrupting the architectural integrity of the building.

"It has some really beautiful architecture pieces, and we want to make sure we don't get in their way," says Scott Appnel, project sales and marketing for Clear Channel. Instead, the company strives to complement the architecture with "impressive digital displays" placed so they are seen by "every passenger that goes through" - a tricky balance, acknowledges Appnel.

"We are a concession of the airport," he explains. "And to create a significant amount of revenue for them, we can't put displays in places where the passengers aren't going to see them."

To find the right balance, Clear Channel used existing structures when possible - some digital displays, for instance, were included with structures that house flight and baggage information monitors. "That's a focal point people will be looking at, and we included our LCD screens into that structure. So it's not extra freestanding things all along the concourse," says Appnel.

Make Yourself Comfortable

When passengers arrive at the gate areas, they find cluster seating by Arconas that includes double AC sockets and double USB ports between each seat.

Traditional linear seating is also available, but SMF added clustered arrangements to achieve greater utilization of seats. "They fit a slightly reduced number of seats, but the seat use ratio goes up. People generally leave the seat beside them empty to preserve personal space," explains Lynn Gordon, vice president of airport solutions for Arconas.

Takayama agrees with Gordon's assessment: "What typically happens (with linear configurations) is one of the seats ends up being the coffee table, and sooner or later coffee gets spilled on the seat and no one gets to use it."

In addition to a tabletop for bags or a coffee cup, some of the new units have wireless charging capabilities - a first for any California airport, notes Gordon. "With Powermat wireless charging, anyone who already has their phone enabled at home can use it," Gordon explains. "They won't be dealing with cords."

Both wired and unwired cluster seating, notes Kelley, prevents passengers from searching for a plug and sitting on the floor while they use or charge their laptops, cell phones and other devices - one of the main things the airport hoped to accomplish.

"The airport was very serious about providing the most

inviting and amenity-filled experience for their passengers," comments Gordon. "They wanted to make sure passengers had available all the bells and whistles they could."


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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