Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) has completed the first major step in a $409.5 million redevelopment which will see its capacity almost double by late 2013 to 5.2 million passengers. LPIA’s redevelopment is the largest public-sector project in the nation’s 38-year history.
The new U.S. departures terminal at LPIA was commissioned by the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, in a gala ceremony attended by nearly 2,000 guests on the evening of February 25. The terminal represents the first of three stages in the second phase of the airport’s redevelopment.
In the first, minor phase, improvements were made from 2007 to 2010 in the airport’s existing terminal facilities, at a cost of $11.7 million. However, the on-time and under-budget completion of LPIA’s new U.S. departures terminal 20 months after ground was broken for the new facility in July 2009 represents a $191 million investment and forms the largest single stage of the entire redevelopment exercise.
“We far too long ranked among the least efficient and least customer-friendly airports in our region. Today’s commissioning signals a definite change and a new direction,” said Ingraham during the ceremony. Ingraham also announced on February 25 that his government had given approval that day for stages two and three of Phase II of LPIA’s redevelopment to go ahead.
After the speeches were over, an evening of high-quality entertainment and excellent refreshment was in store for all present. The celebration showed off both levels of the new U.S. departures terminal to excellent advantage –particularly the wonderful statues of Bahamian Junkanoo Mardi Gras dancers at the top of the escalators – and culminated in an informal, late-evening show by Bahamian rock star Lenny Kravitz. (See the video below.)
Covering an area of 247,000 square feet, the new, two-level U.S. terminal is designed to reflect the unique character of The Bahamas, says Stewart Steeves, president and CEO of state-owned Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), which is handling the redevelopment of LPIA. NAD contracted Vancouver Airport Services – which has experience in building or managing airports in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cyprus, the Middle East, Liverpool in England and Santiago in Chile – as project manager for the construction work.
Steeves says that because the sun is so strong in The Bahamas, the design of the new U.S. terminal – which is strongly hurricane- and earthquake-resistant – not only features large external overhangs to provide shade, but also bucked the trend in new airport terminals towards using walls entirely of glass. While the terminal does have plenty of windows to provide natural light, its walls are 50 per cent concrete, in order to minimize the greenhouse-heating effect.
In addition to using color themes of sand and blue in carpets and fabrics to emphasize The Bahamas’ beaches, sea and sky, LPIA’s new U.S. terminal is decorated throughout with locally created, very picturesque art.
Even more important to U.S. visitors, however, is that the new U.S. departures terminal’s customs and immigration pre-clearance area is substantially larger than that in the old international terminal. The Bahamas notes it is one of just five countries to have U.S. immigration and customs clearance facilities located on on its soil. (The others are Aruba, Bermuda, Canada and Ireland.)
In a nation where the unemployment level is officially 18 per cent, an important factor in the U.S. departures terminal project was the high level of local employment used. Of the 661 workers on average on the site throughout the terminal’s construction, 424 were Bahamian – more than 64 per cent of the total employment, compared with just 30 per cent in the construction of the former U.S. terminal 19 years ago.
“It’s clearly among the best to be found anywhere,” said The Hon. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Aviation for The Bahamas. “It’s the crown jewel in the most astonishing improvement program in our history.”
Following an Open Day on February 26 where the new building was unveiled to the entire Bahamian public, LPIA’s new U.S. departures terminal opens for business on March 16. Upon its opening, passengers will find a 170-seat restaurant, three food-court outlets, a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop, three newsstands and book stores, six retail stores, two retail kiosks, a retail cart, a common-use Graycliff Lounge and smoking divan and a Heineken lounge and duty-free shop.
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