TIA's new $1-billion SkyConnect facility promises convenience

- It doesn’t look like the Tampa International Airport we knew a year ago. The airport debuted $1 billion worth of additions and upgrades Wednesday, and it seems TIA has remained ahead of its time throughout history.

In 1969, people thought the airport’s blueprints at the time were science fiction, but it became a reality. Fast forward to 2018, and the airport has caught up with the modern times, again.

TIA broke ground on the project in 2014, and completed the first phase. The second phase will add an office building and a second hotel at the airport.

Good Day Tampa Bay visited all that’s new, including a huge rental car center, spas and SkyConnect.

RENTING A CAR

Tampa Bay is one of the largest rental car markets in the country, ranking ninth in the nation. If you arrive in TPA, and in need of a rental car, you will enter a 2.6-million square feet facility, with 26 rental car brands to choose from. It’s three times the size as the previous Rental Car Center.

Travelers can obtain their ticket for the rental car, walk to one of the three levels where it would be located, “and head to the beach,” said Dan Seely, project manager. He promises a quick turnaround for dropping off and obtaining a rental vehicle.

“They have a quick turnaround area in the back of the facility, where you can not only wash, vacuum and fuel the car and put it back in the service in under 10 minutes,” he tells FOX 13.

The new Rental Car Center is not only where cars can be rented, but when travelers arrive they can check in their luggage. Keep in mind, not all airlines are participating in this option, just yet.

Travelers who arrive 90 minutes early, can drop off their bags, receive their boarding pass, hop onto the new SkyConnect “people-mover” train, and head to the main terminal.

Now, so customers at the rental car and economy lot can check their bags, receive their boarding pass, hop onto the SkyConnect, and head to the main terminal.

SKYCONNECT

At 50 miles an hour, SkyConnect, will transport travelers back and forth to the main terminal, the economy parking lot and the rental car facility. There are 12 trains total, to help keep things moving.

The train debuted Wednesday, and eliminated the need for shuttle buses, which were discontinued the same day.

KEEPING IT LOCAL

Inside Tampa International Airport, you’re are literally surrounded by, well, Tampa. Officials wanted to include local businesses since the airport’s inception.

Whether you walk in to obtain your plane ticket, or head to the main terminal, you are walking on tile created by Architectural Tile, a business located in South Tampa, that has worked with the airport since 1970.

There will be a total of 69 new concessions openings in the airport – 59 have opened since February 2016. While in Airside F, you can indulge in local eateries like Buddy Brew, Yogurtology, Square One Burger, Bella’s Italian Café and more.

Over in Airside C, you’ll find local favorites like Ulele, Goody Goody and Louis Pappas.

THE HISTORY OF THE AIRPORT

Tampa International Airport could have been where the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus is located, or it could have even been in Pinellas County. If that happened, it probably would not have been the TIA we know today.

- FULL STORY: The history of Tampa's airport

In 1969, it looked like the future, with airsides separating people from the terminal, but moving travelers in between. The plans started to unfold with the site in what is now the USF-area, but Hillsborough County officials got wind that Pinellas County wanted to have their own international airport.

“They said if we put our airport close to Pinellas County’s border, maybe we’ll be the one to get it and Pinellas County wont,” said Rodney-Kite Powell, a historian.

And Tampa got it.

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