New air traffic control tower opens up nearly 100 acres near runways
In the wake of its completion of a new $25 million air traffic control tower, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials are offering nearly 100 acres of land adjacent to its runways for development.
The land, within the Airside North Quad Commercial Park between a pair of runways, could be developed by air freight logistics, cargo, aviation maintenance or related firms, officials say.
Corporate hangers and a fixed-base operator similar to the existing Dolphin Aviation or Rectrix Aviation also could be built on the property, airport officials say.
“The land is within our infield and adjacent to our runways, and there are not a lot of facilities in the country that have that, so it’s really a rare commodity,” says Fredrick “Rick” Piccolo, the long-time president and CEO of the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport Authority, which runs the airport.
Piccolo, who attended a prestigious aviation trade show in London earlier this month to begin marketing the land, says the 92-acre tract could accommodate roughly 1 million square feet of industrial and commercial space.
The proposed development on the land comes as the airport authority is working to diversify its sources of income and generate revenue from nonairline activity.
In the past decade, airline consolidation has decreased passenger traffic at the airport, and the rise of discount carriers at airports to the north and south has also cut into the number of travelers choosing Sarasota-Bradenton International, which operates under the Federal Aviation Administration call letters SRQ.
Today, seven carriers fly out of the airport, including Air Canada, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Elite Airways, Jet Blue and United Airlines.
The airport serves roughly 1 million passengers annually — about the same level as Punta Gorda Airport in Charlotte County, which has a single carrier, Allegiant — and a fraction of the travelers that fly into and out of Tampa International Airport roughly one hour’s drive away from SRQ.
As a result of SRQ’s loss of legacy carriers such as Continental and discounters like Air Tran Airways in recent years, the airport straddling Sarasota and Manatee counties has been beefing up noncommercial carrier operations.
“The idea is we’re trying to diversify our revenue streams so that we’re not quite so reliant on airline operations over the course of the next two decades,” Piccolo says.
“Now, given the new parcel that’s become available, one with direct runway-accessible land, we think we’re taking a significant step toward broadening our future success.”
The runway-accessible property represents the latest in a series of moves the authority has undertaken to bolster revenue.
In 2000, the airport embarked on development of a new roughly 100-acre industrial park on its 1,100-acre property. Today, about half of that acreage remains available for lease.
The authority also has another 76-acre tract slated for future development, Piccolo says.
In all, the airport generates about $1.5 million a year from nonairline sources, including ground leases occupied by a self-storage facility, Honeywell offices and a 108-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel, which was developed a decade ago by Sarasota-based Finergy Development LLC at the entrance to the airport at 975 University Parkway.
The hotel was the first Hampton Inn globally to earn a LEED Silver certification and was the first Sarasota lodging property to be recognized as LEED energy efficient.
That $`.5 million figure is up from $200,000 that was generated just a few years ago, Piccolo says.
But with the new 128-foot-tall tower now operational — an official dedication is slated for September — airport officials have increasingly turned their attention toward future expansion by producing a YouTube video outlining future expansion and other materials.
“We’re taking steps now to make sure the airport is economically healthy for at least the next 20 years,” Piccolo says. “The 92 acres being brought to market now are part of our long-range vision to ensure the viability of the airport.”