Sarasota-Bradenton Int’l Adds New Cellphone Lot With Improved Amenities

Sarasota-Bradenton Int’l Adds New Cellphone Lot With Improved Amenities
Victoria Soukup
Published in: 

The rapid growth at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)—a whopping 230% increase in passenger volume in the last five years—has brought smiles to the faces of management. But it also created an associated increase in vehicle traffic that caused curbside congestion at the terminal.

Thus, the birth of SRQ’s new $3.2 million cellphone lot. The idea was to encourage drivers picking up arriving passengers to park and wait rather than clogging the main terminal roads. So the Florida airport installed digital flight information displays, restrooms, vending machines and a water dispensing station.

And it worked.


Project: Paved Cellphone Lot

Location: Sarasota-Bradenton Int’l (in FL)

Lot Size: 65,000 sq. ft., with 124 spaces (42 more will be added later)

Cost: $3.2 million

Funding: Airport cash on hand

Completed: Aug. 2023

General Contractor: Stellar Development Inc.

Flight Information Displays: Daktronics

Amenities: Restrooms; vending  machines; filtered water dispenser

Safety Measures: LED lighting; security cameras; perimeter fencing; gates that are locked overnight; police patrols

Key Benefits: Improved comfort for guests waiting to pick up arriving passengers; reduced congestion at terminal curbs

“This new lot takes congestion off the curb and allows people to wait in an area that has all the amenities they need without having to go into a paid parking lot,” says SRQ President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Piccolo. “It keeps motorists from circling around trying to figure out when a flight will come in. Now, they just wait comfortably at the lot until they receive a telephone call, and then it’s probably a 30-second drive to the front of the terminal.”

Previously, the airport used a gravel parking area for a cellphone lot. It had a little bit of grass, a couple freestanding lights and two portable toilets. “And that was our cellphone lot,” Piccolo remarks. Technically, it did the job; but as passenger volume grew (from 1.3 million in 2018 to 4.3 million in 2023), it remained largely underutilized.

The new paved lot, which opened last August, is located right across the road from the old option but is attracting more vehicles. “The previous lot just wasn’t as popular and didn’t have the amenities,” Piccolo explains. “People just circled and circled and added to the traffic congestion.” The new 65,000-square-foot lot has 124 spaces, and two large LED video displays showing updated arrival information so drivers know just when to head to the curb.

Currently, an FAA antennae tower stands in the middle of the lot. After the airport moves it to a nearby area, the lot will gain 42 additional parking slots.

Safety Measures

For security purposes, the lot is surrounded by a 6-foot-tall chain link fence topped with three strands of barbed wire. Every evening after the last flight arrives and the lot empties, police search the entire area, including restrooms, and lock the gate and restrooms until the following morning.

“The security fencing was needed because the lot is in a wooded area that in the past has attracted homeless encampments,” Piccolo explains. “We didn’t want to turn the cellphone lot restrooms into their private areas, so we decided to add security fencing.”

In addition, SRQ installed three pan-tilt-zoom security cameras and six cameras with fixed multiple lenses, providing airport staff 17 different views of the area. About a dozen LED lights, each about 10 feet tall, illuminate the area as another precautionary measure.

For added comfort, the lot has shade from trees to protect drivers from the hot Florida sun. Two vending machines offer beverages, and another is stocked with snacks; a bottle filling station provides free filtered water.

Infrastructure Upgrades

The project required running electrical and fiber optic lines from the terminal to the lot for the two Daktronics flight information displays. The LED screens, which are nearly 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide, were specifically designed/built for outdoor use and were installed so vehicles in all spaces have a clear view of at least one board. “They have auto brightness, so they dim down at night and don’t interfere with people driving by,” notes Kevin Palmeter, Aviation Market manager for Daktronics. 

While cell phones are ubiquitous, not everyone picking up passengers at the airport is a savvy frequent flyer. The new LED displays provide them with the right information at a quick glance just when they need it. Instead of looking up arrival times online, drivers can use their personal devices for work or entertainment. In addition, the displays are full video capable, so the airport can post other messages related to passenger pick up if conditions change.

Currently, SRQ is using its former cellphone lot as a staging area for construction contractors.

More Traffic Expected

The airport’s increasing passenger volume began in 2018, when Allegiant Air initiated service there. One year later, Southwest Airlines came in and became SRQ’s biggest within 12 months. Since 2018, the airport has grown from six airlines and 12 nonstop destinations, to 11 airlines and 55 nonstop destinations today.

Piccolo notes that the new cellphone lot is only one way SRQ is accommodating the increased traffic. A new $10 million ground transportation center is scheduled to open by the end of this year. When complete, it will move ride-share pickups and drop-offs from the front of the terminal to the west end of airport property, freeing up even more curb space.

With passenger growth expected to continue at SRQ, these new landside facilities could prove to be pivotal. “The cellphone lot is already seeing a tremendous amount of use and is very popular,” Piccolo reports. “And as it becomes even more well known, it will be even more used.”


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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