The new $118 million terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport turned 1-year-old this week and plans of what to do with the old terminal’s ticketing area are on hold until the airport completes other projects.
Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the opening of the new 240,000-square-foot passenger terminal, which features a new automated baggage handling system and new passenger boarding bridges.
In its first year, the new terminal building handled more than 1.6 million commercial passengers via more than 20,000 commercial flights on airlines such as Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Porter Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines and WestJet.
What remains unclear is just what airport officials want to do with the vacant 21,500-square-foot ticket lobby of the old terminal.
Horry County and Myrtle Beach Community Appearance Board officials have been vocal about their desire to see the ticketing area of the old terminal come down, and the county’s administration committee went as far as voting in August to tear it down. But, county officials have since learned that it could not be torn down because moving around a fiber optic cable that leads to the new terminal would be cost prohibitive.
Kirk Lovell, spokesman for the county’s department of airports, said even though the county owns the airport, it could not allow another department to use the vacant space without charging it fair-market value because of Federal Aviation Administration rules.
“It’s still kind of in limbo with what exactly we’re going to do with it,” Lovell said of the ticketing area of the old terminal.
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 last summer only brought two inquiries.
“We’re trying to identify the best use for the space and what makes the most sense,” Lovell said. “There’s not a definitive timeline.”
There is, however, a pool of money that’s getting smaller by the day.
About $5.5 million budgeted in the overall project was to address projects like remodeling the ticket area in the old terminal. For now, that money is being used for projects like the expansion of the long-term credit-card parking area and facade plans to get the old terminal’s facade to match the new terminal.
“We’re going to get down to the bottom of the piggy bank,” Lovell said. “Now we just need to make sure we have money for everything. We don’t want to go over budget.”
Any ideas of what to do with the ticketing area will likely come from airport officials, who will then present it to the Airport Advisory Committee. From there, if approved, it moves to the county administration committee before going to the full council.
County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said he would like to see economic development offices in the old ticket area, which is currently being housed at Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
“Eventually they’re going to run out of space out there and they might have to do something else,” Lazarus. “What would be neat is if somebody got off the airplane, we take somebody through our nice new facility and there’s our economic development corporation right there at the runway. … I think that might be a great opportunity for us.”