Cleveland Hopkins Accelerates Terminal Updates for Republican Convention

Victoria Soukup
Published in: 

When throngs of red, white and blue politicos descend on Cleveland in July for the Republican National Convention, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) will greet them with a newly updated ticket lobby and other recent renovations. Between delegates, staffers, journalists, lobbyists and others, the city is expecting 50,000 extra visitors. 

Two years ago, CLE was in the final planning stages of a much-needed facelift to its aging ticketing hall and exterior façade when the Republican National Committee announced that its 2016 national convention would be held in Cleveland. At that point, airport officials realized they had one and only one option: complete the $22.6 million project on time.

Projects: Ticketing Hall Renovations; New Exterior Canopy
Location: Cleveland Hopkins Int'l Airport
Cost: $22.6 million
Key Deadline: Republican National Convention, July 18-21
Prime Architect: Leo A Daly
Associate Architect: Van Auken Akins
Contractor: Cleveland Construction
Revolving Doors: Besam
Sliding Glass Doors: Assa-Abloy
Civil/Structural: C&S Engineers
MEP: WRL Engineers
Cost Estimating: McGuinessUnlimited
Hazardous Materials Testing: Solar Testing Laboratories
Constructability & Value Engineering Reviews: ConstructAbility

As it turns out, they actually finished three weeks earlier than anticipated and on budget.

"It was an enormous commitment among all parties to get everything done on time," reflects Fred Szabo, the airport's interim director. "But we also wanted to get everything accomplished with time to spare so we could work out any remaining issues and be prepared for the convention."

With the convention still pending, CLE is already receiving extremely positive feedback. "We have a significantly improved look," reports Szabo.

Previously, the airport was functionally simple to navigate but in dire need of an update, he explains. The exterior façade, where passengers enter for departures, was drab and offered little protection from the elements. In addition, the 30,000-square-foot ticketing hall appeared tired and uninviting. "Hopkins is an older airport, and although it always had a reputation of being easy to get through, it was going on 50 to 60 years old," Szabo notes. "The finish [materials] were worn, and the types of finishes and coloring were dated. We wanted to upgrade the image."

Airport personnel and architects, designers and engineers from Leo A Daly focused on two objectives: enhancing the passenger experience and improving the ticketing hall's operational performance. "The airport had several things that weren't working from the passengers' perspective, like curbside weather protection and visibility into the building, which affects wayfinding," explains Jordan Taylor, the partner who led the project for Daly.

Designers specified floor-to-ceiling glazing (glass) on the front of the ticketing hall to provide better visibility from the curb and allow more light to stream into the building. "It's nice when you're standing at the curb and you can look into the ticketing hall and see where you're going," Taylor says. "The additional daylight offers a much more pleasant experience."

A new 560-square-foot steel canopy extension was installed over the drop-off area to shelter passengers as they exit vehicles and enter the terminal. Skylights are embedded in the exterior canopy, which extends about 12 feet farther than the previous façade. "These skylights bring additional daylight to the skywalk on the departure level, while at the same time providing cover for travelers," explains Renato Camacho, the airport's chief of planning and engineering.

Operationally, the airport sought to reduce the energy needed for lighting and heating/cooling. The large glass curtain wall provides "free" daytime light, and interior fixtures were upgraded with new energy-efficient LED lighting.

Reducing Temperature Fluctuations
In the ticketing hall, CLE replaced eight electronic sliding glass doors with six revolving doors, at a cost of nearly $92,000 apiece. Because the ticketing hall is narrow, the sliding doors continually opened and closed as people walked by, letting in bitterly cold drafts in the winter and gusts of hot air during summer. The new 16-foot diameter revolving doors greatly reduce temperature fluctuations.

"Those revolving doors might seem like a customer convenience, but they really do have a significant impact on the heating and cooling, because the temperature stays more consistent in the terminal," says Szabo. "During a significant cold snap, cold air would blow through the terminal, causing inside temperatures to plummet."

Taylor says the revolving doors maintain an effective weather seal even while visitors come and go, eliminating the "complete openness" the sliding doors caused.

To create a more open feeling, designers raised the hall's ceiling by about 4 feet, and replaced the old drywall with a painted metal ceiling. "We use metal because it goes up quickly, is very durable and [requires] low maintenance," explains Taylor. "From a design standpoint, it gives you a little bit more of a sparkle than a painted drywall ceiling. It livens up the space, which is one of the things we like about it."

CLE's Camacho agrees, noting that the previous 10-foot ceilings were outdated and inefficient. "Now, we have 14 to 15 feet of natural light coming through that area and it is angled and helps with lighting and energy efficiency," he comments. 

May vs. June
Problem-solving became the order of the day when city officials moved the project's original June 21 completion date up three weeks to create more of a safety cushion before traffic began for the mid-July convention. "We had been on schedule up until that point, but when the city decided to accelerate, we had to come up with alternative means to accommodate that," recalls Michael Swalley, project manager for Cleveland Construction. 

Planners consequently divided the project into two phases, allowing contractors to focus first on the northern exterior and southern interior, and then complete the southern exterior and northern interior. Ticket counters and equipment were relocated to make room for crews working on the southern interior. But when work shifted to the northern interior, Cleveland Construction opted to leave all ticket counters in place and install scaffolding. Crews worked above the ticket counters as agents continued to process passengers, saving time and eliminating the need to redirect customers. 

The entire north end of the hall-from Southwest Airlines' ticket counters to American Airlines'-were under scaffolding. "That enabled the airlines to stay where they were and we didn't have any downtime due to moving things around," Swalley recounts. "We just worked out over the top of them."

Crews also installed components for a new, more energy-efficient heating/venting/air conditioning system in the ticketing hall. The installation of new terrazzo flooring is scheduled at a 
later date.

Renovations in the lower-level baggage area included LED lighting, updated column wraps, new aluminum composite paneled ceilings and a metal curtain wall system. The airport also installed 14 newer-technology sliding glass exit doors in the area's seven vestibules for a total cost of $110,000. Revolving doors were not necessary in the lower level because temperature fluctuations are not as dramatic as in the ticketing hall, explains Taylor.

Other Improvements
In addition to the recent ticketing hall and terminal façade renovations, CLE installed metal canopies over two of the airport's four surface parking lots in time for the Republican National Convention. One of the canopies includes solar panels that will cover the cost of lighting both lots, notes Camacho. In total, the canopy project cost $9.78 million. 

A $1.5 million signage project is also currently underway at CLE and Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport, which is primarily used by private and corporate aircraft. Phase 1 of the project is scheduled to be complete before the convention. It includes new signage in the ticketing hall, on airport roadways and to direct travelers to the off-airport rental car facility. "Based on previous customer feedback, we needed to address our signage," Szabo explains. "People want an uncluttered and simple route through the airport, (and) we want to be sure there is not an excessive amount of signage. We want very simple, straightforward and consistent directions, so people can find their way through the airport." 

Given its variety of pre-convention projects, CLE experienced some growing pains during construction and officials fielded complaints from passengers and airlines while work crews made improvements. "The big thing was that we had to keep the airport operational," Szabo reflects. "We certainly did have a period of discomfort, but that was really only a temporary inconvenience. The goal was to go through a construction period and minimize the problems. We've done that, and the end result was worth it."

One project scheduled to began after the Republican National Convention is the installation of a $26.8 million in-line baggage system. The new system will move all of the screening equipment for checked baggage that is currently in CLE's ticketing hall to holdrooms behind the airline ticket counters and will be 90% funded by TSA. 


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