The 55-year-old B Concourse at Memphis International Airport (MEM) will be shut down this year (the date is currently planned for sometime in March) in order to receive renovations. Changes to the terminal mark MEM’s largest upgrade since 1963 and will consolidate airline, retail, and refreshment operations into Concourse B.

Officials at MEM have been preparing for the $214 million modernization for a couple years. However, officials at the airport have recently sped up the process of moving all of the gates and concession stands out of the terminal and into the A and C concourses. Delta and Southwest, the two largest carriers at MEM, will operate out of Concourse A. Allegiant will move to the C Concourse, where American and United fly out of.

The renovated Concourse B will feature, among other things, higher ceilings, an increased amount of natural light, wider hallways, more and newer concessions stands, additional moving walkways, and a children’s play area. The terminal will also get new baggage carousels. Once Concourse B opens, all of the major carriers at the airport will operate out of it.

Despite all the new features, Concourse B may have fewer gates after the renovation than it does now. Officials say that the renovations are aimed at closing up to ¼ of the terminal’s gates while giving everything else a significant upgrade.

A tentative timeline calls for contractor selection in June and partial demolition of the Concourse (the spine of the Y-Shaped building and its eastern prong will be stripped to the foundation, which will be used as a based for new construction) in July. Officials say that the timeline can be subject to change.

“Basically it’s as you would think about refurbishing an old house,” said Donald Brown, who works in the airport authority’s development department. “Tearing it down to the bones, replace the electrical, all the interiors, new paint, new mechanicals, what raise and lower, what spin the wheels on the bottom, new air conditioning for the planes, new power sources for the planes, the same things you would see in a house refurbishment.”

Airport officials say that bustle in the two remaining concourses will bring to mind times before Delta closed its hub at the airport in 2013.

“We are at the dawn of immense change in this organization, and as we shoehorn everybody into A and C, there are going to be some folks in this community who are so excited that the airport all of a sudden is busy,” said Jack Sammons, a member of the Memphis Airport Authority.

“It will remind us of the old days when it was a hub, during the push,” said Brown. “We think we’ve accommodated it the best that we can, and we’ve made every effort to expand the restrooms, make the hold rooms as big as possible, increase the seating wherever it makes sense.”

“You’re talking two of our top three carriers will be operating here, with everyone else over on C,” said airport director of Glen Thomas. “It will definitely be significantly increased traffic. We’re going to have some busy hallways here.”

Officials have said that, despite the excitement of the hub feel, the point of this new construction is to reflect a new reality of serving people originating or ending in Memphis, not the old reality of connecting passengers to new destinations.

A variety of concessions stands and amenities were relocated over the past month to prepare for the B Concourse’s closing. A new Starbucks opened in a connecting corridor between Concourses A and B; just before Christmas, a new Cinnabon store opened in Concourse C next to Moe’s Southwest Grill; military lounges and nursing lounges for mothers are now present in both of the remaining concourses. In addition, there are still some moves to come. Lenny’s Sub Shop will move from Concourse B to Concourse A at the end of next month; a new Italian restaurant (which will be called Torn Basil) will open in Concourse A. Restrooms in Concourse A have been enlarged.

The original Concourse B opened in 1963. It had 22 gates and served seven airlines.

Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

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