San Antonio Int’l Builds Consolidated Rental Car Facility & New Parking Garage

San Antonio Int’l Builds Consolidated Rental Car Facility & New Parking Garage,Mindy Hamlin
Mindy Hamlin
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When San Antonio International Airport (SAT) launched its $178 million consolidated rental car facility project in 2015, it was a direct response to customer requests for more convenience. Before the new facility was built, each rental car company operated out of its own satellite facility and provided its own shuttle service to and from the airport.  

“The customer feedback we received was that the previous rental system was inconvenient,” recounts SAT’s Aviation Director Russ Handy. “Customers had to cross a busy street and take their bags onto the shuttles. It was also very confusing to get in and out of the rental car facilities.”

The airport addressed these issues head on with the opening of its new CONRAC in January 2018.  


Project: Consolidated Rental Car Facility

Total Cost: $178 million

Facility Opened: Jan. 2018 

Prime Contractor: Turner Construction

Designer of Record: TranSystems

Electrical: VA Electric

Elevators: Schindler Elevator Corp.

Concrete: Concrete Forming Solutions

Fueling Systems: UST Fuel Systems Services Inc.

Mechanical Systems: Dynamic Systems

Related Project: 7-story, 2,600-space parking garage

“Fast forward to today,” says Handy. “You have a five- to seven-minute walk to the rental car facilities. Once there, you are literally three minutes from your car.”

In addition, a skybridge connects the terminal mezzanine to the rental car lobby, which has 13 rental agencies and space for one more. An underground walkway allows drivers to walk to their cars without having to cross four lanes of traffic as they had in the past.

“From our perspective, the CONRAC freed up a lot of curb space, allowing us to completely redo traffic flow in and around the terminal,” explains Handy. “As a result, it is much more convenient and safer.”

Three in One

For prime contractor Turner Construction, building the 1.8 million-square-foot CONRAC was like three distinct projects wrapped into one: replacing the airport’s existing garage, constructing the CONRAC and constructing a quick turnaround area where rental car companies perform light maintenance and wash, vacuum and refuel cars.

Original plans called for the CONRAC to be built on a site away from the airport’s short-term parking garage. However, the project team soon determined that the structure would partially obstruct the air traffic control tower’s view of the runways. Attention then turned to the existing parking structure.

“We worked collaboratively with the design team to work this piece out and began focusing on replacing the existing public parking garage,” recounts Mike Kaiman, vice president and general manager, South Texas, for Turner. 

The solution was to build a new seven-story parking garage, with 2,600 spaces of public parking on the first two levels and rental car operations on levels three through seven.

Brett Van Hazel, capital program manager for the city of San Antonio, says that assembling an experienced team was important to the project’s success. 

“The designer of record, TranSystems, is well-versed in creating CONRACs,” says Van Hazel. “One reason we selected them is because they had such a good history in designing CONRACs.”

Turner Construction was tapped for the same reason. “Turner had just finished the CONRAC in Seattle, and that was very attractive in their proposal,” he adds. 

Extra Challenges

With plans set to build the CONRAC on the site of its short-term parking garage, the airport moved forward with construction of a new seven-story parking garage. Shortly after crews broke ground, the project team ran into its first “hiccup.”

“When we first tore down the garage and cleared the site, we experienced underground water,” explains Van Hazel. “The design team did core samples of the site to understand the subsurface. We were not able to fully capture everything as we discovered underground water across almost the entire site.”

Ultimately, the team was able to address the issue, but the unexpected water negatively impacted the project schedule.

The specialized systems needed in the CONRAC also posed extra challenges for the construction team. “The quick turnaround area, in particular, required multiple systems, including car wash facilities, oil and lube systems and vehicle lifts for oil changes to ensure stormwater safety,” says Kaiman.

Communication & Collaboration

According to Van Hazel, ongoing communication with the rental car companies was crucial for the project to be a success. 

“We were basically the middlemen between all of the stakeholders,” he explains. “We would bring experts from the rental car agencies and the airport into large design meetings where we would go page by page through the design and talk through the elements of the construction program.”

Input from the local managers for the car agencies was also important. 

“We would get input from the managers’ past experience and find out what they needed and what was a challenge for them,” says Van Hazel. “We did this at every design iteration.”

Apparently, the collaborative approach worked. “The rental car agencies were thrilled,” reports Handy. “It increased their efficiency by having everything in one place. As long as it was feasible financially, they were all for it.”

The Customer Experience

When the project scope changed to include demolition of SAT’s existing parking garage, the airport team also took the opportunity to explore other ways it could improve the customer experience.

“We tried to look at this from the customer’s experience,” remarks Handy. “Frankly, we capitalized on the opportunity by adding elements that were not in the initial project.”

Add-on elements included widening/repaving roadways and installing new road signs. Murals that portray San Antonio’s rich 300-year history were added outside the CONRAC building and in the rental car customer service area. Michael Menchaca created murals with images that portray San Antonio’s 300-year history.

“This is not just a garage, but also something our community can be proud of,” says Handy.  

Next up for SAT? A $25 million, private and corporate capital project that will feature seven hangars totaling 100,280 square feet. The multi-hangar development initiative will be the largest single project of its kind in the airport’s history.

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