Terminal Renovation Helps Myrtle Beach Int'l Flex with Seasonal Traffic

Jennifer Bradley
Published in: 

Year after year, Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) services half of its annual passenger volume in a short three-month span when tourists flock to local beaches, golf courses and other area attractions for spring and summer vacations. Thanks to new facilities and recent renovations, the South Carolina airport can expand during its busy season and contract when traffic subsides.

With a new 274,000-square-foot terminal opening two years ago and the airport’s 9,500-foot runway receiving a total facelift in 2014-15, MYR’s original terminal was just waiting for its turn to shine. Its time came in early May, when Concourse B, as the second floor of the old terminal is officially called, reopened for business after $5.4 million of interior renovations.

The new design for Concourse B enhances the airport’s ability to accommodate peak passenger volume, while saving ongoing costs during the rest of the year. Because the overall space can be subdivided into individual zones with roll-up doors, MYR can open and close the six gates in Concourse B as traffic dictates. “We are able to use a phased approach to bringing gates online,” explains Pat Apone, director of airports . “We can actually match our available gates to a flight schedule so the demand is there to support the cost.” 


Project: Terminal Renovation
Location: Myrtle Beach (SC) Int'l Airport
Owner: Horry County 
Total Cost: $10.1 million
Concourse B Renovations: $5.4 million 
Exterior Renovations & Parking Lot: $7.4 million
Design/Build Contractor: Southside Constructors
Architect: Pike-McFarland-Hall Assoc.
Shared-Use Technology: AirIT
Products Used: Airport Operational Database, Resource Management System, PROPworks, Common-Use Self-Service Kiosks, Extended Airline System Environment
Seating: Vitra
Key Subcontractors: A Step Above Tile, Billy's Plumbing, First Defense Fire Protection, JP Ross Skylights, Melton Electric, North Strand Mechanical, Premier Wall Systems, Peralta Millwork

The new flexibility added with the recent changes helps MYR make the most of its seasonal market. 

Time to Change

After more than seven years of deliberation by city and county officials, the city of Myrtle Beach gave the airport’s owner, Horry County, one year to decide on a strategy for MYR’s old terminal. Officials stressed that a well-laid plan for the existing space had to be in place when the airport’s new terminal opened.

The Concourse B renovation actually includes three projects — an organizational structure that caused confusion, notes Jason Terreri, assistant director of airports for Horry County. Interior renovations completed in May cost $5.4 million, but total cost for the trio is expected to be $10.1 million. The two projects that account for the remaining $4.7 million of the total projected budget are still in the works. A new on-site parking lot is scheduled for completion this September; and the renovation of the terminal’s exterior façade is currently deferred while planners decide about future use of the previous ticketing and baggage claim areas.

“When we built the new terminal, it was always part of the plan to renovate the old terminal at some point,” Terreri notes. “We were waiting for that trigger of: When do we need the extra gates, and when do we spend that money?”

The trigger was tripped in November 2014, when one of MYR’s carriers announced service to five new markets, and another airline added one more destination to its lineup. The airport also realized its busy season would be more demanding in 2015, with flights beginning earlier and increased passenger volume, due to carriers flying larger aircraft. “We knew we needed to open the extra gates,” Terreri recalls. 

Zone Defense

Tim Laframboise, principal at Southside Constructors and project manager for the design/build Concourse B program, notes that the seasonal approach at MYR makes the renovation project unique.

Each of the three zones in the renovated terminal has its own power and heating, venting and air conditioning controls. “The best way to control their operating cost was to segregate this part from the rest of the airport,” says Laframboise. 

Essentially, the airport can shut down individual zones/areas when they are no longer needed. “Off season, we don’t have to heat it, cool it, staff it, and security doesn’t have to patrol it,” adds Terreri.

Zones can also be pressed into service as traffic increases. For example: On May 9, the airport opened two of its additional gates in Zone 2 of Concourse B, which triggered additional concessions and restroom support as well. 

Terreri reports that concessionaires appreciate MYR’s zoned approach, because they don’t have to staff some locations year-round and can provide extra employees only as demand dictates. As of early June, three of the six gates in Concourse B hadn’t been used yet this season; but the airport can open an additional zone in just five minutes if airside volume increases due to irregular operations or other gates are taken out of operation.

“We have the flexibility to move people around,” says Terreri. “Also, as a full common-use airport, we can put any airline on any gate.” 

 In early June, MYR’s arriving traffic was equally split between concourses A and B, which has decreased crowding and enhanced customer experience in both areas, Terreri reports. It’s also helping spread out the revenue base for concessionaires, creating yet another selling point for that group of airport tenants.

After the summertime visitors return home, MYR’s new terminal will once again take center stage by servicing the airport’s non-seasonal guests. While segregating the terminals was key, designers also had to unify the appearance of the two structures and physically connect them with a hallway, notes Laframboise. “Capital cost is one thing, but the operational cost is ongoing; and with this, it can be managed effectively,” he remarks.    

Timing & Teamwork

After the airport established its preliminary scope of work for the project, Southside was hired in December 2014 and began demolition/construction the second week of January 2015. While waiting for other approvals, prep work orders were released to keep schedules on track, Laframboise explains. Crews also removed existing finish materials, stairs and escalators, and filled in a portion of floor between the original first and second floors.

The overriding goal was to finish renovations before the spring travel season began — a task that required crews to work 14 to 16 hours per day, seven days per week, for more than three months to complete the project on time.

“The project flowed once we got it started,” recalls Laframboise. “The guys were really dedicated, came in and worked hard to make sure we met that date. Everyone just knew they were up against some long hours and a lot of overtime.” 

He credits the relationship between the airport and other project team members for the success of the project. Good camaraderie led to quick decisions and a true collaborative effort, he explains. 

Open communication is a theme that’s consistently emphasized on Southside projects, he adds. “When you’re moving on a fast-track project like the one at MYR, the last thing there is opportunity for is to re-do work,” he explains. “Communication helps everyone understand what the expectations are up front so we can carry that out in the field.” 

Design Details

The renovations in Concourse B echo the design details of Concourse A through seating, carpet, ceramic tile and other finish materials. New work stations with high counters and chairs offer a modern look, and 85 new charging stations meet growing demand for more places to work and plug in devices while customers wait for flights, says Laframboise.

Re-designing the existing terminal also presented MYR with a valuable opportunity to address sustainability issues, adds Terreri. All lights fixtures were switched to full LED, and the airport’s new zoned approach drastically decreases operational costs, he details. 

The existing 3,200-square-foot skylight was also a substantial element, notes Terreri. MYR officials wanted to save the skylight because of its prevailing presence at the airport over the years, but also because it brings natural light into the terminal’s main gathering area. Ultimately, the skylight was retrofitted with new gaskets and seals to make it more energy efficient, and it remains a focal point.

The extension of electronic data services from the new terminal to Concourse B was one of the project’s significant, but unseen, elements. The airport selected shared-use technology products from AirIT for operational, passenger processing and business/revenue management systems. MYR also uses the company’s common-use self-service kiosks.

The company’s suite of products provides flexibility for both airlines and passengers, notes AirIT President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Keller. No matter what gate an airline is stationed at, the kiosks allow airline employees to use the same hardware and software, Keller explains. This capability also extends to the ticketing counters.

“The renovation of the old terminal allowed MYR to leverage that technology to accommodate efficiencies during construction and after,” says Keller. MYR was able to extend the technology to the new area with little assistance from AirIT, thanks to previous training airport personnel received during initial implementation of the systems in Concourse A, he adds.

With renovations complete and summer in full swing, arriving and departing passengers are enjoying both of the MYR’s terminals — the new and newly renovated. Soon, the seasons will shift again, and so will the airport’s traffic. But this year, the airport has new systems and structures in place that will mimic its market’s seasonal fluctuations.  


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