A planned $242 million overhaul of main terminal concourses and gate areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is being called the single largest interior renovation since the building opened in 1962.
The renovation of six of the seven concourses at Terminal 1 is set to be finished by late 2025, which means frequent travelers at MSP will continue to endure what seems like never-ending construction at the nation's 19th busiest airport.
But it's all for a good cause, said officials from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and Delta Air Lines at a news conference Thursday.
"This is about creating an exceptional airport experience for the millions of passengers who travel through MSP to visit, to vacation and to conduct business here so that our economy thrives," said CEO Brian Ryks of the MAC, which owns and operates the airport.
The mere location of the event, on Concourse F, appeared to highlight the need for a refresh: Passengers en route to various cities in Florida were crammed into gate areas with negligible lighting, and the shade of the concourse carpeting could be charitably described as dingy beige.
The plan calls for a unified, modern design for the concourses and about 75 Delta gates that dovetails with improvements largely completed in the ticketing and baggage claim areas of the terminal, as well as Concourse G.
That will translate into terrazzo flooring in passenger corridors of Concourses A, C, D and G, with new carpet in Concourses B and F. New wall finishes are planned, including granite in public corridors and tile in Delta gate areas, as well as brighter LED lighting, technology upgrades for flight and gate information screens, and gate seating with more power outlets.
"These renovations will impact everything Delta passengers will see and experience from security checkpoints to their gates," Ryks said.
The MAC is investing $182.5 million of its own funds in the overall project, with Delta, MSP's dominant carrier, contributing $60 million; no taxpayer funds will be used. The planned expansion of Terminal 2, home to Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines, was not part of Thursday's announcement.
Early reviews of the project were positive.
"MSP is one of the most efficient airports in the country, but some of its concourses could definitely use a bit of love to get with the times," said Kyle Potter, executive editor of the Thrifty Traveler website.
MAC and Delta officials said Thursday they remain bullish about post-pandemic travel demand.
"The great news is that the travel demand continues to be very strong, especially as we get ready for our busy holiday season here," said Jeannine Ashworth, Delta's vice president for airport operations at MSP.
The Atlanta-based airline continues to add flights from Minnesota, including to Dublin, Ireland; the Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Cozumel, Mexico, next year.
"With these new destinations and the increased service we'll have 40 percent more seats out of Minneapolis" in coming years, Ashworth said. "Which is why it's so important to have the concourse and gate modernization project. It's the latest example of Delta's ongoing work to modernize the terminal and elevate the travel experience for our Minneapolis customers."
Ryks said Delta's management and financial investment in the project won't preclude other commercial carriers from coming to MSP, now served by 17 airlines.
Officials said there will be little disruption to flight activity during the renovations, since much of the work will be done during overnight hours. Delta's gates will remain open.
The renovation will take place in three phases. Work on Concourses D and F began in October, and the renovation of Concourse C begins in February. Improvements on Concourses A, B, G and the skyway bridge connecting Concourses C and G are scheduled for 2025.
The interior renovation will span 378,000 square feet — more than six football fields. It will incorporate many of the design changes the MAC has made during its expansion of the ticketing lobby and baggage claim areas, as well as Concourse G's modernization between gates G17 and G22.
"Like many airports around the country that sped up major infrastructure improvements when travel was practically nonexistent during the worst of the pandemic, MSP rightfully focused on the major expansion down in the G Concourse," Potter said.
The $80 million expansion of part of the G Concourse in 2022 also created space for a third Delta Sky Club at MSP.
"That area has brand new concessions, more natural light, higher ceilings and new seating. If that's the model for this project, travelers are in for a treat no matter which gate they're at," Potter said.
With Thursday's announcement, the MAC will have invested more than $1 billion in upgrades at Terminal 1 from "curb to gate" since 2016.
That includes a $525 million expansion of the terminal by 30,000 square feet; redesigned ticketing and baggage levels, including new baggage carousels; consolidated checkpoints and improved central elevators and escalators. The project is winding down, with work on new ticket counters and baggage systems on the terminal's north end.
And work will continue next year on the G Concourse involving $330 million in renovations that will double the seating capacity of gates G8 through G13, two new sets of restrooms and additional space for concessions.
The MAC is also investing $6.5 million to reconfigure gate and ramp space in Concourses B and C to accommodate larger Delta aircraft.
"If they could relieve some of the congestion, that would be good," said Paul Sukut, who was traveling Thursday from his home in North Dakota to New York with his wife, Colette, and Chorkie mix pup Lily.
Sukut said he's been traveling through MSP for decades. "I love this airport," he said. "It's a beautiful airport, but construction is not unusual."