Change is underway as Nashville’s airport grows to meet needs

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Nashville International Airport is growing as fast as Music City, last year by over 11 percent—and that may be matched this year.

Still, on the busiest travel day this year, with two music festivals and a Stanley Cup game, lines were kept to a minimum.

Steady traffic is the norm, not the exception, for the airport that services 12 million passengers a year, and these are the reviews they want to keep hearing:

“It’s easy to get in, get your tickets, board a plane. When your people come here, it’s easy to pick them up, get their luggage and out to the parking lot, and you are out of here,” said Robert Clendenning, who’s lived in Nashville for four years.

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Mathew Lee came down for his first visit from Montreal and is likely coming back.

“I love downtown. I love the downtown experience, the arena, location–everything. I love the vibe. I mean, you step outside the arena and everything is there,” he told News 2.

But the fact is that parking can be tough, and like a mirror image of the city it serves, Nashville International is getting ready to burst at the seams.

Change is needed, and if you’ve been over there lately, you can see it’s underway.

“We’ve been steadily increasing for several years. In fact, this will be our fifth consecutive year of passenger growth. In fact, we’ve got to the point where we are the fastest growing mid-range airport in the country, up 11.2 percent last year, which is extraordinary,” explained Tom Jurkovich, Vice President, Strategic Communications and External Affairs.

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Even more extraordinary, the airport will practically double capacity over the next two decades to 20 million travelers per year.

A forecast that calls for change is now underway with a rebuilding project called BNA Vision.

Opening next summer are 2,000 additional parking spots with a massive six-story parking garage and transportation center. There’s also a temporary international arrivals area already under construction.

“There will be multiple phases of this. The terminal will open up and expand, the concourses will grow, we will get new gates, new concessions… It’s a big deal, but it takes a while to get done. It’s going to be phased in, but it’s going to be great when it’s finished,” explained Jurkovich.

Donelson Pike will actually be moved to the east a short distance as the project advances. A hotel will go into the main terminal, and a permanent full-service facility for international travel will go into what’s now Concourse A.

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These things are vital for not only tourism but for continued international corporate growth.

“There’s no doubt that Nashville is going to be a hub of international travel, whether it’s next year or the year after, or the next 10 years,” Jurkovich told News 2.

And with no Nashville trans-Atlantic flights in existence, the airport authority is actively pursuing direct flights to the United Kingdom and Tokyo.

BNA Vision is ambitious and will run about $1.2 billion in the end, funded by existing revenue streams, grants, parking, concessions, and rent paid by the airline agreements.

The key is to get it done with as little disruption as possible, which at times may be impossible.

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“It’s important that we keep that what we call the ‘Nashville airport experience.’ It’s very important we keep that warm, welcoming feel during this expansion,” said Jurkovich.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something we are committed to. Bottom line: We have got to get this airport bigger and better over time to meet this growth,” he added.

The final timeline for complete is a moving target as the phases progress, but the airport you walk into today will look nothing like the airport you may see even five years from now.

BNA is currently served by 12 airlines and offer 440 daily flights. Nashville International Airport provides nonstop air service to more than 50 destinations.

Follow our Nashville 2017 coverage about the city’s growth, the issues that come with it, and how people are tackling them.