Five-Year Terminal Renovation Worth the Wait for Central Wisconsin Airport

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA) travelers are greeted these days by a newly renovated and expanded terminal. Updates were direly needed, reports Airport Director Tony Yaron; and the nearly $38 million multiphase project took five years to complete. 

"The terminal was overcrowded and aging," he explains, noting that the facility hadn't been updated since the mid-1980s. "After 9/11, we had to fit a CT-80 screening device into an old travel agency office between the ticketing offices and the street. Travelers had to schlep bags through the lobby."

Primary Project: Terminal Renovation & Expansion
Associated Projects: New Rental Car Facility; Parking Lot Expansion; Apron Renovation
Location: Central Wisconsin Airport (Mosinee, WI)
Approx. Cost: $38 million
Timeline: 2010-2015
Architecture & Design: Mead & Hunt
Civil Engineering: Becher Hoppe Assoc.
Site Electrical Engineering: Clark Dietz
General Contractors: Miron Construction (Rental Car Facility); Immel Construction (Phase 1); Ellis Stone Construction (Phase 2); SMA Construction Services (Phase 3)
Airfield Apron: River View Construction
Infrastructure: Earth Inc.
Parking Lots: Radtke Contractors; Integrity Grading & Excavating
Baggage Handling Systems: G&S Airport Conveyor
Electrical: Van Ert Electric; Total Electric
Plumbing & HVAC: Ron's Refrigeration; Best Mechanical; KBK Services; PGA Inc.
Geothermal: Sam's Well Drilling
Roofing: Quality Roofing
Glazing: Omni
Landscaping & Wayfinding: Quorum Architects; Integrity Grading & Excavating
Roadwork: Integrity Grading & Excavating
Baggage Conveyors & Carousels: G&S Airport Conveyor
Of Note: Design & construction was spread over 5 years to help obtain federal funding & protect airport market and industry fluctuations

With one small baggage carousel and five rental car offices located nearby, passengers claiming their luggage intersected with others trying to rent vehicles. "It was a traffic flow nightmare," recalls Yaron. 

Early discussions about upgrading the terminal began in 2004, with initial interest focused on building a new structure on the other side of the airfield. After talking with the FAA and consultants and putting pencil to paper, airport officials determined that the cost of a new terminal was not worth the risk - particularly given the industry downturn at the time, Yaron explains. As a result, officials consulted engineering and architectural firm Mead & Hunt about renovating CWA's existing terminal to extend its life another 20 years.

"Funding for terminal projects that weren't mission critical was drying up," recalls Matt Dubbe, national market leader for Architecture at Mead & Hunt. "We had to sell the idea of renovating the existing terminal back to the community after they had gotten excited about a brand new terminal. Ultimately, we were able to convince the community that the rehab project would protect them from market fluctuations in the industry while providing them with an excellent facility."

All in Good Time

Design work for the terminal renovation didn't begin until 2010, but the delay ultimately proved propitious. By then, apron work was sorely needed on the east and west sides of the terminal, explains Yaron. Because Mead & Hunt personnel had already determined that the terminal project required rerouting storm sewer, electrical, geothermal and utility corridors in order to expand the facility, civil engineers from Becher Hoppe Associates were able to design the apron work accordingly.

Plans included the removal of deteriorated pavements and installation of a new sub-base, underdrain, storm sewer and base aggregate. Ultimately, crews replaced about 9,500 square yards of concrete pavement in the terminal apron area and 2,800 square yards of asphalt in the general aviation apron area.

"Anything that needed to be installed in the apron area, we made it happen in 2010 before the terminal work began," comments Becher Hoppe Civil Services Manager Marijean Hoppe, PE. "We knew the terminal project was coming up and had the footprint in hand, so we could design our concrete grading to tie into the new terminal."

With airside preparations in place, landside work began in 2011. The process was complicated for several reasons, including the need to break the project into several phases due to funding constraints and the existing location of CWA's car rental agencies. Ultimately, airport officials decided to build a new rental car facility across from the terminal to improve customer flow inside the facility, benefiting travelers and rental agencies alike. 

"Moving the small, cramped rental car agencies out of the terminal was the domino that allowed us to start working on the terminal itself," explains Dubbe. 

The nearly $2.5 million facility that resulted measures about 30,000 square feet and features an all-glass front and a single sloped roof. Interior upgrades include in-floor heating, automatic light controls and generous use of wood finishes and other local materials. Travelers exiting the baggage claim area are directly in line with rental agency counters across the drive. A ready-return lot behind the facility provides each rental car agency with 36 slots in the airport's expanded lot also used for public parking. The old lot, which also included rental car ready-return spaces, had only 1,100 spaces; the new one has 1,675. Workers fuel and prep rental cars at an offsite facility. 

During construction, the road between the new rental car facility and terminal was closed to run utility feeds between the two facilities. Crews installed a completely new electrical system, including an electrical vault and backup generator. Although the public was able to drop off passengers near the terminal's entrance throughout construction, drivers temporarily had to follow a complicated maze through the parking lot to exit.

"The civil engineering planning was critical to the eventual success of the project," Hoppe reflects. "We go in early, but we're also the last to leave. When you're doing work in 2011, you have to plan for the roadway work you'll be doing in 2015." 

On to the Terminal

Terminal renovations were divided into three phases, each with a different general contractor (see list on Page 37). Phase 1, on the west end of the terminal, began in 2012 - right on the heels of the rental car facility project. The existing ticketing and lobby area grew considerably, as crews added fully 14,000 square feet to the west, north and south. The roof was raised to allow for clerestory lighting during daylight hours, and crews moved the CT-80 baggage screening device out of the lobby and behind a screen adjacent to the airline ticketing offices, which were also expanded and remodeled. 

"The baggage makeup area was greatly improved," Yaron informs. "Under the old system, tugs would pull into or try to back into individual garages. It was congested and not very efficient. Now, we have a long tunnel running behind the entire string of airline offices. New baggage belts greatly improve operations for the airlines." 

Phase 1 also included extensive utilities and mechanical work. Approximately 180 geothermal wells were dug on a plot of land just southwest of the terminal. Planners expect the new system to provide up to 80% of the new building's heating and cooling needs.

Phase 2, on the east end of the terminal, began in 2013. Less complicated because it did not require extensive infrastructure and utility work, this portion of the project added a total of 10,000 square feet to the east, north and south sides of the terminal. Workers also demolished an existing administrative office building just east of the terminal and moved the offices, conference rooms, boardroom and training classroom it previously contained into a new mezzanine area in the southern portion of the east expansion. 

With rental car offices gone from the baggage claim area, the airport had space to install two new baggage carousels to replace its previous single unit.

"The two new carousels, now set in a more open and spacious area, allow travelers to find their bags more easily and create better circulation for travelers and meeters-greeters," observes Yaron. 

Work in the central portion of the terminal got underway in 2014. Largely a remodel with new finish materials such as terrazzo flooring throughout the facility, Phase 3 also added several structural steel support beams to bring the building up to code. In addition, crews reconfigured the security checkpoint and expanded its queue areas to ease circulation. 

Because of an existing (currently unoccupied) restaurant on the pre-security side of second floor, the new first floor space had to maintain 8-foot ceilings. In doing so, designers added "a very nice wood slat treatment and modern look," notes Yaron.

Metal panels and porcelain tile wainscoting were selected to ease maintenance work for cleaning staff. "Smaller airports have tight budgets, and maintenance costs can be a burden," Dubbe explains. "We wanted to provide the airport with a facility that was very easy to maintain - a 'soap-and-water' approach that didn't require a lot of staff to maintain."

Exterior materials for the building's new additions provide a layered look, with a brick base that matches the existing concourse. Metal panels and terracotta masonry provide color and finish accents. 

The main terminal entrance was moved to align with the new rental car facility across the road, and structural glass canopies were added to provide shelter for travelers entering and exiting the building. Designers shaped the canopies to complement the "butterfly" roof configuration of the terminal's clerestory element.

Follow the Funding

Developing a phasing schedule and funding model that was acceptable to the FAA was a major challenge, Dubbe reflects. Harsh weather further complicated the phasing schedule.

"The airport was very dependent on federal dollars for this project," he elaborates. "Terminal projects historically have low priority relative to runway, taxiway and safety area work. We had to present a compelling model as to why this project was worth the support of federal dollars. We wanted to provide the community with a 21st century facility without putting the airport in a position where one blip in the economy would put the airport in dire financial straits."

Once the FAA was on board with the project, everything fell in place, he notes. 

"I couldn't be happier with the way the project turned out," Yaron reflects. "I am seeing some of our tenants investing in the airport as well, which is a good sign. While some airports are at the cusp of losing air service, we're seeing airlines investing in improving their services here at the 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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