Touring New Indianapolis Airport

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

Construction is proceeding on the $1.1-billion New Indianapolis Airport, hailed as the largest development initiative in the city of Indianapolis' history. Over 30 years in the planning, the new airport is rapidly taking shape on the city's west side.

The centerpiece of the Indianapolis International Airport project is a four-level terminal being built in the "midfield" area of the present airport, between the two main runways. With direct highway access from Interstate 70, the 1.2-million-square-foot terminal — which replaces the existing terminal built in 1957 — will provide an impressive new gateway to Indiana for millions of air travelers worldwide.

Designed by St. Louis-based Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK), the master designer for the new airport, the midfield terminal is a structural steel-framed structure set on concrete with a high-performance glass envelope. The terminal design is dominated by its great, arched roof, which will shelter the glass walls from the sun and collect the sun's illumination through its skylights. The building will include an 82-foot-high ticketing hall, advanced baggage handling and security systems, expanded retail and dining space, and two concourses (concourses A and B) with a total of 40 gates, with provisions for future expansion.

The new terminal will be served by a multi-lane, dedicated central parkway from I-70, and visitors will be able to use a five-level parking structure, which is under construction near the terminal. The 7,100-vehicle parking garage will have 5,900 public spaces and 1,200 rental car spaces.

Taking Shape

Construction of the midfield terminal began in July 2005, and airport officials say the project is on pace for completion in late 2008. The project is growing bigger every day and is taking shape on a site measuring nearly a mile wide and over 2 miles in length.

Construction Digest recently took a project tour, hosted by Indianapolis Airport Authority Director John Kish, along with other project officials. The tour provided a close-up view of the building's main public space, adjacent concourses, and airfield and apron improvements.

During the tour, workers were busy installing the high glass windows that look out from the terminal onto the apron, performing interior work and erecting the roof steel. Approximately 85 percent of the 11,000 tons of structural steel for the new terminal (including concourses) was in place by early December, according to Randy Williams, manager of field operations for Hunt/Smoot Midfield Builders.

The New Indianapolis Airport project was divided into two areas of development: building the terminal and concourse area, and site development construction such as grading, roadways, utility work, parking, and airfield improvements. Hunt/Smoot Midfield Builders, a joint venture of Hunt Construction Group and Smoot Construction, is building the terminal and concourse areas. Turner/Trotter, a joint venture of Turner Construction Co. and Trotter Construction Co. Inc., has been responsible for site development work and is currently building the new parking garage.

Hundreds of workers are participating in the terminal project. "On a given day, there are between 700 to 800 workers on-site," says Williams, "and the population is growing. We have a talented group involved with this project."

In the weeks ahead, crews will concentrate on enclosing the terminal to protect against winter and will concentrate on interior operations such as the installation of mechanical equipment.

Civic Plaza

The heart of the terminal building is Civic Plaza, which features a 200-foot-diameter skylight. According to the Indianapolis Airport Authority, the Civic Plaza is designed to be a central gathering point whose circular shape recalls the shape of the city's central public space, Monument Circle. Although the plaza will serve the necessary functions of both security and concessions, the space is designed to incorporate artwork and provide public event space.

Airport officials say the form of the terminal roof is shaped to create a symbolic threshold to the city and state, emanating from the Civic Plaza. The form is generated by joining the sheltering, centralized shape of an arch with the rise and fall of the building from check-in to departure.

Walking around the site, you notice that the structure is relatively column-free. Incorporating state-of-the-art technology and the latest environmental principles, the design offers lots of natural lighting. In addition, the building will have wide concourses (100 feet wide by 1,300 feet long), well-placed escalators and elevators, and expanded security check capacity. Each concourse provides access to 20 gates. Aircraft gates can accommodate a complete range of narrow-body and wide-body aircraft. Two international gates on the south concourse (Concourse A) can accommodate one A380 aircraft.

New Airport Facts

Some interesting facts about the new airport: in the midfield terminal, there are 73,000 square feet of domestic baggage claim area and 165,000 square feet of central baggage processing area. Workers are installing 96 passenger check-in counters, 1,100 doors, 10,000 light fixtures, 10 moving walkways, 23 elevators, and 10 escalators.

The airport project will feature 110 acres of new apron and taxiway concrete, 150 acres of new asphalt parking, an underground hydrant fueling system for aircraft, and a dual drainage system to accommodate aircraft de-icing fluids and storm water runoff.

The Indianapolis Maintenance Center energy plant will provide hot and chilled water to heat and cool the terminal. It is connected to the terminal by means of a utility corridor that is tunneled under the north runway and two taxiways.

Following completion of the midfield terminal, officials will request to have the terminal certified by the United States Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) for its environmental and sustainability efforts. Operational efficiencies are being gained by incorporating energy-efficient architectural design and energy management system.

Developing The Airport

According to 2005 airport statistics, Indianapolis International Airport handled 8.52 million passengers, had an average of 194 daily aircraft departures and conducted 222,275 operations (landings and take-offs).

The new airport is being constructed to meet current and future needs. Positioning of the new terminal between the two runways is a crucial aspect of the project as it allows taxiing aircraft to reach the terminal more quickly after landing and thus save fuel. Also, the project is aimed at creating a better layout for security, improving road access and increasing economic development possibilities.

The $1.1-billion cost of the new airport is being financed through a combination of federal grants, passenger facility charges, airline facility rents, and aircraft landing fees. No state or local tax money is being used to finance construction of the new airport or to repay construction bonds.

Construction of the midfield terminal represents the latest component in the massive airport development, following construction of two key projects. In 2002, the ground was broken on a project to relocate a portion of I-70 in preparation for airport construction. This project, which was completed in 2004, included a dedicated I-70 interchange to serve the new airport and a new Six Points Road at I-70 interchange.

In May 2003, construction began on the Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) complex at the airport, and this new complex opened in April 2006. The ATCT complex is composed of two units: a control tower and an adjoining two-story administrative building, which includes the Terminal Radar Approach Control facility.