Reno-Tahoe International Airport hasn’t changed much in the past decade.
No major renovations have taken place during this time, and the concourses – where travelers congregate at their gates – have not been updated since they were built more than 40 years ago. But the increasingly busy airport is about to embark on a major facelift, tinkering with funding from a variety of sources.
More than 350,000 passengers passed through Reno Airport in May 2022 alone, an 11% increase from the same period five years ago and a 16% increase from 10 years ago. year. The airport serves about 4.1 million passengers a year and is expected to handle 7.3 million a year by 2046, airport spokeswoman Stacey Sunday said in an email.
“We need to have the services and the facilities to accommodate this growth,” Sunday said. “Doing nothing is not an option and we are excited to give people more of what they love at RNO.”
Reno-Tahoe International Airport, or RNO, will undergo renovations to accommodate the growing number of travelers passing through northern Nevada. The renovations will include a new ticket hall, a new loop road for dropping off and picking up passengers, updates to the parking lot and possibly two new concourses.
The airport relies on funding from a variety of sources for the project, including cash from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, revenue-secured bonds, and revenue from airline fares and fees. It will also use funds from fees paid by passengers and car rental companies.
So far, RNO has secured funding for all upcoming renovations except for the new halls. State grants and federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law may also be directed to the project.
Airport officials have not requested state or federal funding, although money received from those sources will determine whether existing concourses will be expanded or two new concourses will be built, it said Sunday.
Renovations are taking place in phases. The first update, which is expected to begin in mid-September, is a $20-30 million ticket hall expansion. In addition to expanding the ticketing hall, the renovations will include contactless travel technology and new restrooms.
In 2024, a $175-225 million four-story parking garage will be built to accommodate more rental cars and space for Reno residents who leave their cars at the airport while traveling.
The updates will be completed in 2028, culminating in the construction of two updated halls. The concourses, which will include a larger reception area, more retail stores, dining options and an expanded Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, facility, will likely cost more than $300 million.
“We will work hard to maintain this as much as possible throughout construction, but we know there will be construction impacts,” Sunday said.
Sunday recommends passengers check the RNO website and social media accounts for updates as construction unfolds and advises passengers to arrive at least two hours before their scheduled flight.
Travelers may need more time to navigate certain areas, including the loop road, which has six lanes in front of the airport but will be reduced to three during construction. And when renovations begin inside the ticket office this fall, there will only be two entrances and exits – one on the south end and one on the north end.
The economic effect
Despite the hassles travelers may encounter during renovations, city officials said
RNO’s expansion will positively impact the entire Northern Nevada region as each flight generates local revenue as passengers spend money on hotels, food and entertainment.
Although the airport has not generated an impact report since 2018, the UNR estimated that RNO had an annual impact of $1.3 billion on Reno’s economy, it said Sunday.
In a phone interview, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said Reno has grown from a small town to a mid-sized town — and services to meet that need to adapt.
“Reno is really growing, so these services need to grow,” she said.
Schieve said the airport plays a role in diversifying Reno’s economy. Like other basic services, transport attracts both tourists and businesses. The more a city can meet people’s basic needs, the more likely businesses are to invest in an area, she said.
A friendlier airport can also help safety and security services for northern Nevada residents, as it can be used by medical and fire services.
While it may seem like Reno is growing, it’s actually catching up, said Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Western Nevada Economic Development Authority. Airport renovations — similar to roads, housing and city development in northern Nevada — are well behind schedule, Kazmierski said.
“Most people don’t realize we’re growing [in terms of population] slower now than we have been at any time in the past 50 years,” he said.
Rather than a population boom, what is changing is Reno’s infrastructure development.
After the 2008 recession hit Reno, the city lacked the resources to develop the necessary infrastructure, as the population has continued to grow steadily over the past 15 years.
Now that the city has resources, it is working on these developments at the same time.
“Right now we’re starting to see the infrastructure catch up and airport expansion is part of that,” Kazmierski said. “Getting our infrastructure back to where it needs to be to meet the needs, not just of the community now, but…as we move forward.”
Companies are also seeing the airport facelift as a boon to their business.
Caesars Entertainment — which operates the Eldorado Resort Casino, Silver Legacy Resort Casino and Circus Circus Reno — is already investing in air travel, said Ken Ostempowski, northern Nevada general manager for the gaming company. People who are regular Caesars Entertainment customers are offered charter flights to various destinations where other Caesars Entertainment casinos and hotels exist, he said.
Ostempowski said the potential for additional charter flights could bring more guests to northern Nevada, bringing more revenue to the region.
“Tourism continues to be a positive story here,” Ostempowski said. “People are starting to recognize Northern Nevada’s little-known secret.”
Southern Nevada has also seen an increase in air travel as tourism rebounds. In May, Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas handled 4.64 million passengers, just 36,000 less than the record number reached in October 2019.
In June, the October 2019 record was broken when 4.7 million passengers passed through the airport.
Chris Jones, the airport’s chief marketing manager, said air travel had increased significantly despite rising ticket costs linked to gas prices and inflation which had reduced people’s discretionary income. He expects the number of seats purchased to continue to grow through the rest of the summer.
“I’ve been anticipating this for some time – June had more seats than May, July has more seats than June…so I suspect with absolute credibility in the numbers and things we’re seeing so far, that July will be be another record breaking month,” Jones said.
Jones said the surge in passengers has sparked discussions among airport staff about capacity needs, but unlike Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Harry Reid International Airport is tightly surrounded by large structures such as the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and UNLV, leaving little room for expansion. .
That’s why the conversation tends to focus on the prospect of building a second major airport to serve southern Nevada. The second airport would be built near Jean, a few miles south of Las Vegas, and would help with excess passengers on the plane, Jones said.
More than 20 years ago, Congress passed the Ivanpah Valley Airport Public Land Transfer Act to allocate approximately 6,400 acres of public land for airport development. In 2018, Clark County Commissioners voted to give an additional 17,000 acres for airport development.
The next step would be for the Bureau of Land Management and the Federal Aviation Administration to write an environmental impact report, but that hasn’t started yet, Jones said.
Even after the environmental impact report is completed, it will be many years before the second airport can be built, he said. While the existing airport has limited land space, the second airport faces the problem of air space.
“You look up and you see the sky, but a lot of the air to the north is controlled by the Ministry of Defence, because of Nellis [Air Force Base]said Jones. “You have mountains to the west. You just have a lot of different factors to play with.