The Myrtle Beach Airport Advisory Committee is still waiting to hear some direction on what it should do with the vacant 21,500-square-foot ticket lobby of the old terminal after the airport received few inquiries to place businesses there.
At least three Horry County Councilmen, however, have made it clear that they’d like to see the ticket area come down, and Larry Bragg, chairman of the Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board, or CAB, thinks that might not be a bad idea as long as it matches the aesthetics of the new $118 million terminal, which opened in April.
The original plan was to turn the old terminal into commercial space. Some suggested office space and possibly lost baggage claim and others said it might be a nice area for Transportation Security Administration agents. But a 60-day effort to lure businesses into the old terminal this summer proved to bring in a mere two inquiries.
The issue was brought before the county’s administration committee last month, and committee Chairman Harold Worley was outspoken with his wishes.
“For what it’s worth, that ticket area needs to be torn down,” he said. “That’s a waste of taxpayers money to put good money after bad. You need to tear that thing down and clear it up over there.”
Horry County, which owns the airport, had been talking about expanding the terminal for more than a decade. Construction began in late 2010 after a lengthy process that included the Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board nixing the terminal’s proposed location, sending county leaders back to the drawing board and causing the project to be delayed for several years. Horry County owns the airport, but it’s in the city limits so Myrtle Beach has to sign off on certain aspects of it.
The terminal expansion was designed to handle additional traffic in and out of Myrtle Beach by increasing the number of gates from seven to 12. The design was to increase the capacity for baggage claim, move the rental car space to a separate smaller building outside the terminal and provide more space for a welcome center.
The airport’s advisory committee would like to receive guidance through the creation of an ad-hoc committee that consists of members from the county, the city of Myrtle Beach and the appearance board.
Mike La Pier, director of airports for the county, said after the advisory board’s meeting Wednesday that he will meet with the CAB in October, possibly as early as its Oct. 3 meeting.
“The direction that I got from [the county’s] conversation was simply go have the conversation with CAB,” La Pier said. “Let’s see whether they will approve that. We’ll do that informally at first to get a sense of the field. I think we owe that to CAB. They’ve already approved something. If we’re going to suggest a change, we need to have some informal conversations with them before we move forward.”
Bragg, chairman of the CAB, said that he thinks the idea of demolishing the ticket counter area of the old terminal “would probably be favorably received” by the appearance board if there was a plan that was conducive to the appearance of the new terminal.
“That would obviously be different than the design we approved,” Bragg said. “The plan was always to utilize it in certain ways.”
He said there’s a risk, however, in tearing part of the building down.
“It would be a shame if, 18 months from now, someone would like to use that,” Bragg said. “To me, it’s still an asset of the county.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.