TAMPA (FOX 13) - Passengers at Tampa International Airport will probably never see the brand-new Concessions Receiving and Distribution Center unveiled by airport officials Monday, but they're bound to feel its impact.
The facility will serve as the central nervous system for TIA's restaurants and retail shops, increasing security and efficiency at the airport.
Unlike the old system, where vendors used the same roads as travelers to access the main terminal where goods commingled with passengers, the new facility will route vendors and their deliveries to a single secure center.
"This is one of the most important elements for food, beverage and retail expansion," said TPI CEO Joe Lopano.
For travelers, the center means a smoother trip to the airport and more choices for dining and shopping.
"You'll see awesome new restaurants. You'll see a P.F. Changs opening up in the main terminal, a Hard Rock Cafe, Bay Coffee and Tea," said Lopano.
Over the next two years, 65 new restaurants and stores will open their doors inside TIA, and 40-percent of those businesses will have local ties.
"Lots of local restaurants. We're introducing people to the flavor of Tampa and this building will supply the products to do that," said Lopano.
The distribution center is just one piece of the massive expansion of TIA, which includes a new 1.3-mile monorail to carry passengers to a new rental car center and economy parking garage.
Lopano says the nearly $1 billion expansion project is still on budget and on schedule to be complete in October 2017.