LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Changes are coming to the Lawton Fort Sill Regional Airport in the next three years. The Lawton Metropolitan Airport Authority is in the design phases. And the terminal is getting upgraded and expanded to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Planes have been flying out of the same terminal for nearly 70 years. With the last upgrade completed in the 90s, Airport Director Barbara McNally said the building is due for a change.
"It's time," McNally said. "9/11 has come and gone a long time and things have changed a lot and TSA came in. They're actually tenants of ours now and have office space. It's cramped quarters, and it's time to make these changes."
With the way the terminal is now, with the small TSA corridor check and the baggage claim without a carousel, it can get crowded.
"Just from a passenger use stand point it's going to be so much more functional," McNally said.
The plans include higher ceilings and larger rooms to accommodate the newer TSA equipment, a baggage claim carousel to keep the passengers moving, and a larger boarding area with a ramp to a jet bridge so passengers don't have to step outside to board their flight.
"All the things that we've been sort of making due with, we're going to fix," McNally said.
To fix it, they are using federal dollars. This project so far is estimated to cost $10 to $11 million.
McNally said they are looking at doing bond financing. They get about a million dollars a year of Airport Improvement Program funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. They will use that yearly funding plus about $500,000 from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission to pay back the debt over time.
"Airports do this all over the US and we're grown up now and this is just what we need to do to get this done," McNally said.
Lawton Metropolitan Area Airport Authority Chairman Sean Fortenbaugh said he was pushing for these improvements as a way to further economic growth in the city.
"One of the things that any business coming from somewhere, they look at the airport," Fortenbaugh said. "They look at all the amenities that we have. This is the first step, and over the next year you're going to see a lot of changes in the city dealing with economic development."
McNally said with so many years of wanting these improvements, seeing it drawn out on paper is exciting.
"This is going to be an opportunity to make the front door of the community a beautiful place and I think that's going to serve us all really well," McNally said.
This project should take about two years to finish so McNally said at the earliest the new terminal would be opened in 2021.