×

New terminal nearing completion at Alpena airport

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The spacious lobby has a large acrylic wall that has natural grasses pressed between two panes. Airport Manager Steve Smigelski, pictured, said many historic and unique elements of Alpena are included in the design of the building.

ALPENA — A flurry of activity is happening at the Alpena County Regional Airport as construction workers put the finishing touches on a shiny new passenger terminal slated to be open after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 16.

Once in service, travelers can expect a much-improved experience, Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said, including modern amenities lacking at the current terminal, built in the 1952.

There was a small update to the old terminal in 1990.

During a tour of the facility last week, Smigelski showed off some of the features in the spacious building, which includes a large lobby area that is nearly encased in windows, a fireplace, large ring lighting fixtures, and the baggage conveyors that are customary in most airports but were lacking in Alpena’s. The conveyors will make finding luggage simpler than it is now.

Smigelski said that going through the Transportation Security Administration screening process will also be more efficient and, once passengers clear security, there will be no need to leave the holding area to have to be re-screened.

Steve Schulwitz Construction workers pay close attention to details and even make sure glass windows are clean, despite the continuing construction going on around them.

“Overall the terminal will have a lot better flow, be less cramped, and easier for people to navigate,” Smigelski said “It is kind of a pain for people in holding now, because we don’t have any restrooms in the holding area, so, if someone has to go to the bathroom, they would have to go through security again. In the new terminal, there is also plenty of room, enough for 90 people, for a 50-person jet.”

Like the front of the building, the rear also features many large windows that allow a close-up view of the runways and the scenery on the other side. Smigelski said that, before the architects began the design, they toured Alpena for two days and took pictures of things they could incorporate into the plan.

In the end, Smigelski said there are certain historical elements and features of Alpena integrated into the structure.

“The brick work is supposed to give a nod toward the quarrying and cement industry around here, and the copper wash is a tribute to the shipwrecks, especially the Pewabic, which went down with a huge load of copper,” he said. “The wood in it is a nod to Alpena’s rich lumbering history, and then the holding area will be a rich shade of blue, with accents, that the architect says will give you a sense of being underwater, which is a tip of the hat to our sanctuary.”

The Lake Huron lakebed off the shores of Northeast Michigan are part of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where about 100 shipwrecks are preserved, including the Pewabic, which sank in August 1865 and now lies 165 feet underwater.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said that, with the way the new terminal is laid out, the process of check-in, clearing security, and boarding the plane will be much more smooth than currently.

The airport’s lobby area also features a large acrylic wall that has natural grasses pressed between two panes. A fireplace adds to the ambiance of the lobby.

Smigelski said he is trying to coordinate the ribbon-cutting and the first flight from the new terminal at the same time.

He said he hopes the ceremony can be done and then the SkyWest jet can be boarded by the waiting passengers for departure. Until then, however, there is still some small projects that need to be done.

“There will be the usual punch-list items that will need to be addressed, I’m sure, and then there will probably be some bugs that will need to be worked out,” Smigelski said. “But we’re getting close, and everything is pointing to being ready to go full-speed ahead on Jan. 16.”

The terminal renovation was a $13 million project, 90% funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The passenger holding area features floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow visitors to get a close-up view of the runway and scenery on the other side.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The new terminal at the Alpena County Regional Airport will include a baggage carousel, which will make it easier for customers to check and retrieve their suitcases while traveling. There will also be a boarding ramp, which Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said will make it easier for seniors and people with disabilities to board the plane.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The lobby will feature a fireplace and modern decor, such as the large, circular lighting fixtures shown here.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Construction workers put the finishing touches of the rear of the new terminal at Alpena County Regional Airport. Airport Manager Steve Smigelski said the project will soon move to the final stage, which includes fixing punch-list items and working out any bugs there may be.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The new passenger terminal at the airport is expected to be open in January with a ribbon-cutting ceremony taking place on Jan. 16.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The current passenger terminal at Alpena County Regional Airport was built in the early 1950s and lacks many of the modern amenities and conveniences travelers expect today. That is one of the reasons the terminal is being updated.