Albuquerque Sunport Adds More Local Flavor

Albuquerque Sunport Adds More Local Flavor
Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Make no mistake, guests at Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) will soon get a major taste of local culture when dining and shopping at New Mexico’s largest commercial airport. Already known for its distinctively Southwestern architecture and décor, ABQ is infusing more local flavor and brands into its concessions program. A new food hall is on track for next fall, and other food/beverage and retail units are expected to open through 2025.

Significant concessions changes are part of the $87 million “Dream of Flight: Sunport Reimagined” project that commenced this January. Other important components include relocating the TSA screening checkpoint and modernizing terminal infrastructure. Director of Aviation Richard McCurley says that ABQ is pulling out all the stops in both retail and food/beverage programs to further enhance the New Mexican experience for customers.

“Dream of Flight is about investing in the travel experience for residents and visitors alike,” McCurley explains, adding that renovations are also for the community, state and airport staff. “We want everyone’s first impression to be: This is Albuquerque. This is New Mexico. I am in the Land of Enchantment!”


Project: Terminal Renovation & Concessions Redevelopment

Location: Albuquerque (NM) Int’l Sunport

Operating Entity: City of Albuquerque Dept. of Aviation

Scope: 10 retail shops; 16 food & beverage spaces

Focus: Adding more local brands; showcasing Southwestern design & culture

Umbrella Project: $87 million “Dream of Flight: Sunport Reimagined”

Funding: Airport revenue; federal grants (TBD)

Other Renovations: Relocating TSA checkpoint; modernizing HVAC, plumbing, mechanical, electrical & information technology infrastructure

Timeline: Overall project began Jan. 2023; food/beverage concessions proposals due June 30, 2023; new food hall slated to debut in fall 2024, with other units opening in phases through 2025

McCurley notes that ABQ is taking a very prescribed community-forward approach to the project, especially in the concessions arena where it is revamping 10 retail and 16 food/beverage spaces. He describes the plan to add local flair and flavors as a continuation of the airport’s ongoing evolution. 

Innovation and Commercial Development Manager Manny Manriquez says that ABQ is targeting businesses across the state for the concessions contracts that are up for bid. “Currently, there are one food and beverage and three retail contracts that are active,” Manriquez reports. “But the number of new contracts we execute for concessions is determined by the proposals and awards, and there could certainly be more than four operators in the new program. Because this is a complete refresh, the majority of the program will most likely be completely different than what passengers see now at the Sunport.”

Manriquez specifies that the request for proposals process is open to any and all respondents that meet the baseline requirements. “Local businesses, national primes and any other operators are welcome and encouraged to respond with proposals,” he notes.

In January, when the Dream of Flight project took off, ABQ hosted webinars designed to encourage small- and minority-owned businesses throughout New Mexico to submit proposals. The lineup included a session about the Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program and a session focused on informing participants about what it takes to operate in an airport environment, with detailed information specifically about ABQ.

On the heels of the webinars, a “matchmaking event” was held in March to introduce and align small local businesses with nationally recognized prime concessions operators.

“We had great turnout, with over one hundred individuals showing up and representing a cross section of different retail and food and beverage businesses,” Manriquez reports. “We are really excited about the interest among local companies and local brands.”

As the spearhead for Dream of Flight, Manriquez is fully aware of how important such events can be.

“Early on in the process of planning out the RFP, we determined that the best way to ensure that we facilitated the establishment of these really critical local-to-national relationships was to have folks meet in person,” he explains. “We decided to do an in-person matchmaking session and not have any sort of online component, and we were thrilled to see that turnout.”

Consistent Messaging

Manriquez began the two-hour matchmaking session with remarks about ABQ’s guiding philosophy and desire to respect the local culture and unique offerings of New Mexico.

“I think everyone got the message because we have been really, really consistent about that,” he says.

Manriquez and his team proactively distributed press releases and granted interviews with local print and television media to keep everyone in the know. Pieces about the concessions revamp and other changes at ABQ have aired on several of New Mexico’s television affiliates and appeared in publications such as the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Business First.

“This messaging has been key in getting folks to understand exactly what we are aiming for,” Manriquez says of the Dream of Flight bid process. 

Of course, not all queries can be addressed in news releases and media appearances. That’s why he considered the in-person matchmaking session to be so important. Attendees were given the valuable opportunity to interact and ask questions—all of which he was happy to answer.

On a detailed level, Manriquez used the event to discuss the requisite color palettes and layout materials outlined in the package of tenant design guidelines. He also offered more broad-based guidance regarding the myriad of business models that local companies and brands have available to engage with prime operators.

Partner Up

A subsequent pre-proposal conference held in April provided another venue for Manriquez to point local companies in the right direction for successful collaborations with industry veterans, including the current food/beverage and retail operators, all of whom have the opportunity to respond to the requests for proposals.

In many instances, he encouraged interested businesses to engage in joint ventures or brand licensing agreements with larger operators. Such arrangements are especially helpful for companies that may be underfunded for the significant capital outlay required to build out a unit in an airport environment.

“We realize that it is a very significant investment and it is more complex than operating a restaurant, a bar, a brewery or a retail shop in town,” Manriquez remarks, noting that partnering with an experienced large company can be a big help.

Moving Ahead

With bid proposals for new concessions due June 30, ABQ will review submissions this summer to engineer the perfect mix of tenants.

“We have established an ad hoc committee of experienced city personnel to evaluate the proposals and score them based on the quality of the proposals,” Manriquez explains. “Once this process is complete, our city leadership will review the scores and recommendations of the committee, then present the selected awardees for City Council consideration.”

The airport anticipates announcing awards by the end of this year, and allowing companies with the winning proposals to begin building out their concessions units in 2024.

The grand opening of the new food hall is slated for next fall, with other units on both sides of the T-connector opening in phases through 2025.

Ultimately, ABQ is planning to feature a mix of fast-casual food and beverage offerings, full-service restaurants and products from local breweries and wineries, plus a broad array of local products throughout the retail program.

“The diversity of cuisine, craft beer, wine and spirits, as well as various products based on New Mexico’s variety of cultivated farm goods has evolved and expanded over the last couple of decades,” Manriquez says. “It is time for us to do even more to elevate the traveling public’s awareness of all these wonderful products and home-grown brands.”

Manriquez is quick to note that ABQ’s current concessionaires have been excellent partners in getting the “Dream of Flight” program firmly on this path.

“With the new RFPs, we are looking to enhance this effort and raise the bar across the board,” he elaborates. “The refresh of our program is both a celebration of what has come before and a celebration of how far New Mexico has come in more recent years. It is a forward-looking approach that balances our unique legacy with a hunger for growth and evolution.”

Enhancements to the concessions program are closely aligned with the airport’s guiding principles for the renovation project itself and a forthcoming $3 million project to feature additional local and regional art in the newly refurbished spaces.“This renovation and reimagined experience is inspired by our love of this historic and unique airport,” says McCurley. “We know how strongly our community feels about respecting the spirit of the Sunport. It is the gateway of New Mexico, and we take our commitment to responsible stewardship of our airport very seriously. We’re going to continue investing in the Sunport to support our long-term vision for this one-of-a-kind airport.”  


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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