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Q-C Airport to revamp in coming years with use of federal dollars
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Q-C Airport to revamp in coming years with use of federal dollars

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The Quad-City International Airport will undergo gradual improvement in the coming years.

Some potential changes could include the relocation of the baggage screening area, covered rental car parking and raising the height of ceilings to increase natural light.

Improvement of the Moline-based airport will take a significant step Friday as two architectural firms will present, during closed sessions with airport officials, renderings of how the airport could look in the future.

HOK, of St. Louis, and Alliiance, of Minneapolis, are the two firms that will present renderings. 

Ben Leischner, executive director of the airport, said last month a designation change for the airport in recent years allows for more federal funding for the Quad-City airport.

“We’re at a point right now where we really need to look at the next step of operations and maintenance costs are going up, facilities and things are aging. The industry has obviously changed since Sept. 11,” Leischner told the board last month.

The change of the Quad-City International Airport dropping to a non-hub commercial primary airport means officials can “put more federal dollars in to do more projects versus going out and selling bonds or leveraging PFSs, passenger facility charges, to do this construction,” Leischner said.

Friday’s meeting, which starts at 8 a.m. in a conference room at the airport, will feature an open committee meeting on some of the projects on the airport’s radar for facility upgrades in the next five years. A decision for which architectural firm to use will be made at the airport board’s monthly January meeting.

Exclusive negotiations would be ironed out with final plans, and renderings, completed by the end of summer. At that point, documents and designs would be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Between Friday’s presentations and when documents ultimately get to the FAA, Leischner said stakeholders in the Quad-Cities will be contacted, but he also wants to collaborate with Visit Quad Cities on enhancing the terminal to make it more of a welcoming atmosphere that is authentic to the feel of the Q-C region as a whole.

He said he wants the airport’s design to integrate with the regional destination management group so the airport is “not just a gateway for people entering or exiting — we want to feel authentic.”

“This is some of the most important work we do for the public … (whether) there’s going to be a new place to get coffee in the terminal, or we’re going to have covered parking or a children’s play area. Things like that seem to get more public excitement,” Leischner said last month.

Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad-Cities, said he and Leischner built a rapport soon after Herrell came to the area. He points to the removal of a Visit Quad Cities kiosk from the lobby of the airport that was replaced by an interactive touchscreen as one change the two implemented.

The revamp of the airport “presents a chance for us to really be thinking not only short term and what we need to do out at the airport, but we’ve got a long-term partner with whoever they decide to hire,” Herrell said.

“That airport is a first impression. It’s a last impression, but it’s also a place, whether people are a business traveler or leisure traveler, they can be connecting and traveling anywhere in the United States so how we represent and showcase the Quad-Cities is really important.”

Herrell said other potential changes could be a mix of highlighting well-known aspects of the Quad-Cities, such as the Mississippi River or the local impact of manufacturing and agriculture, with artistic decisions.

Overall, the project “presents this level-set moment for us to be thinking about the airport as a real marketing asset for the destination moving forward and, quite frankly, I don’t think we’ve ever been thinking of the airport as a strategic partner as a destination management organization like we should … it certainly aligns with our vision in trying to tell this unique and authentic vision of the Quad-Cities,” Herrell said.

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Forty-eight percent of Quad-City residents brag about being from the QCA yet 83% said they were proud to call themselves Quad-Citizens, community survey results found.

“There’s almost a contrast there of people being proud and enjoying the place they live in, but for some reason they don’t have this mindset that a lot of people outside of the destination believe that the Quad-Cities is a good place that outsiders would want to come and experience it for themselves,” McCaul said.

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