By Gary Walker
Like proud parents showing off a child who is a star athlete or an accomplished scholar, Los Angeles city leaders wore smiles from ear to ear during a sneak peak of the newly minted Tom Bradley International Terminal June 20.
Los Angeles International Airport officials say the $1.9 billion initiative, the largest public works project in the history of Los Angeles, will put the city squarely in line with other top-flight airports across the nation.
At a media preview of the international terminal, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined officials from Westfield as well as the architect who designed the new terminal, Curtis Fentress of Fentress Architects, and other airport representatives to showcase the terminal’s new features, including its more than 60 new dining and retail shops and several interactive multimedia features.
The mayor and Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey beamed as they addressed the press and several invitees to the red carpet ceremony, and spoke in glowing terms of all of the people and entities responsible for what they believe is a passenger-oriented structure that will place LAX among the best airports in the nation.
The design of the terminal, named in honor of Los Angeles first black mayor, reflects what many of those involved see as quintessential Los Angeles: screens with cascading waterfalls, an open, airy atmosphere and a flowing roofline that bring to mind waves breaking at one of the city’s multiple beaches.
Across from the mezzanine, one of the multi-media screens featured a surfer riding the crest of a wave.
“You’re almost at a loss for words when you look around here,” said Villaraigosa. “It’s emblematic of Los Angeles in so many ways.”
Lindsey also talked about the terminal’s design and praised Fentress and his team for their work. “If not for Curt and his vision, we would not be in such an amazing structure,” she said.
Fentress, a well-known architect based in Colorado whose portfolio includes airport terminals, government buildings, convention centers and museums, sees his LAX design as blending the city’s best features with modern day technology.
“The successful LAX of the 21st century will be a consummate host to the world, both seamlessly integrating into its context and embodying the spirit of Los Angeles in such a way that it will become a new, modern landmark by which the region is recognized worldwide,” he said.
Giving the international terminal a much-needed overhaul is perhaps the key component of a larger puzzle to modernize LAX, a plan that was conceived in 2009 and is now almost ready to bear fruit. “It’s the cornerstone of our modernization program,” said LAWA Deputy Director of Airport Development Roger Johnson.
The new and improved terminal will have 18 new and more spacious boarding gates with waiting areas, nine of which will be able to hold super jumbo jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus 480.
Its customs and immigrations areas will also be upgraded and the new facility is anticipated to accommodate 4,000 passengers per hour.
City officials have been candid in the past regarding the international terminal and what they say was its lack of diverse concessions, its outdated design and unexceptional traveler experiences for passengers coming from destinations as far away as Asia and Australia.
With the new capital improvements, they now say arriving and departing the terminal will be an experience that travelers will remember.
“The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX is the first and last impression nine million travelers have of Los Angeles every year,” Villaraigosa noted. “This new terminal enhances passenger safety and security while giving travelers the first-class experience they expect from a world-class city like Los Angeles.
“Customer service improvements at LAX contribute to travelers having positive experiences in our great city, making them want to return.”
The architecture and construction of the structure has been designed to obtain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The enhancements at the international terminal will reap substantial tourism benefits, said Matt Myerhoff, corporate community manager for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
“The dining and retail shops in the Tom Bradley Terminal Great Hall are well-known and are highly popular in Los Angeles, and many of these establishments are run by celebrity chefs, and that itself has become a tourist attraction,” Myerhoff added.
Westfield Concession Management, LLC is the lead company that will lease and manage the food, beverage and retail concessions in the Bradley Terminal. The management firm signed a 17-year contract last year and LAWA estimates that they will receive over $17 million for the first year and over $180 million over the first 10 years of the contract.
“Westfield is pleased to bring our global resources and experience in creating iconic shopping destinations to transform LAX, starting here in the new Tom Bradley International Terminal – our global gateway,” said Westfield Group’s Co-Chief Executive Officer Peter Lowy. “We have leveraged Westfield’s award-winning design capabilities with the best local brands to completely transform the airport experience into the LAX travelers have dreamed of and the LAX they deserve.”
Myerhoff said there is an economic component to the improvements at the terminal as well. “Tourism resulted in $16.5 billion in direct spending to Los Angeles in 2012,” he said. “So this piece of infrastructure is a direct investment in our economy.”
According to the tourism board, while international travelers make up 22 percent of all tourists to Los Angeles, they make up 35 percent of all spending by tourists.
“Having a great experience will not factor into how tourists make their vacation plans to Los Angeles, but what will directly increase tourism is the number of people who can move through the airport,” Myerhoff said.
At the press conference, Lindsey talked about the collective efforts that it took to rebuild the Bradley Terminal and used the phrase “it takes a village” to define how the massive project was able to get to its current stage of development.
Afterward, she expounded on her remarks.
“Every discipline in LAWA had its own role in delivering this,” the airport director told The Argonaut.
Lindsey said although there were days when things did not always go as planned, visiting the Bradley Terminal and witnessing the progress firsthand buoyed her spirits.
“Every time that I have walked the terminal I come back with a renewed sense of energy,” she said.
The terminal welcomed a select group of members of the public two days later, June 22, on LAX Appreciation Day. Bradley’s daughters, Phyllis and Lorraine, joined other family members and dignitaries in a rededication ceremony of their father’s bust in front of the terminal.
Villaraigosa, only days away from leaving office, believes the terminal has the city’s stamp firmly on it.
“The flavor of Los Angeles is here,” the mayor concluded.
The international terminal is slated to open in mid-September.