Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport reaches new heights

- 120 feet up at a careful pace, construction workers are installing 10 massive glass pieces into an airport control tower.

"This is a landmark for Sarasota and Manatee counties. It's iconic. Everybody passes it on 41. I get questions about it every day," said Jack Cox, president of Halfcare Construction, who’s overseeing the last major piece to be completed on the new tower.   

Each piece of custom glass weighs about 1,600 pounds and can take upwards of seven workers to install. Each one takes about two and a half hours before they are placed perfectly.

"It's a little scary. It's about $2-million of glass so we want to make sure they won't drop anything," joked Rick Piccolo, the president of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

The old tower was built in the late 1980s. As the area developed around it, controllers began having minor line-of-sight issues.   The new tower will give controllers a better view and present new opportunities around the airport.

"We have about 100 acres of infield that could be developed, but it would block the old tower's view of the runway. So we couldn't develop it," continued Piccolo.

The airport hopes to lure maintenance facilities or a warehouse company like Amazon.  That would mean more jobs and more money for the airport and the Manatee-Sarasota area.

"It will certainly add to the ability to try and add more air services as well," said Piccolo.

The new tower costs $18-million.  The money comes from the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the FAA.

Construction is set to wrap up in June.   The FAA will train and oversee equipment installation.   That means the tower could be operational by January of 2018.

"It'll put a new face, a modern face on the airport. It'll be quite a landmark in the community at the height it’s at," Piccolo added.

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