Santa Barbara Airport Gets Facelift

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sba_terminalThe new Santa Barbara Airport Airline Terminal is nearing completion and is expected to become fully operational in mid-summer.

The $63 million project also includes a new aircraft parking ramp, a new airline terminal building including site preparation and soil stabilization, relocation and rehabilitation of the 1942 portion of the existing terminal, a new short term parking lot and roadway. The new 72,000 square foot terminal was designed in the tradition of the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style which defines the City of Santa Barbara’s local culture and sense of place.

In the next phase of construction the existing terminal additions will be removed from the original 7,000 square foot 1942 building and it will be relocated to and refurbished at the site of the new terminal. The building was designed by HNTB Inc., a nationally recognized aviation design firm, in collaboration with Santa Barbara’s PMSM Architects. Guiding the design team through out the process was a special project subcommittee composed of representative members of each of the City’s review boards and commissions.

Airline Terminal History:

In 1936, United Airlines started service at the Santa Barbara-Goleta Airfield using a small building nestled between two hangars near the corner of the present day Hollister and Fairview Avenues. As passenger travel continued to grow, United entered into negotiations for a lease with the City of Santa Barbara for land to construct a new terminal building (current location on Fowler Road). United contracted with Edwards & Plunkett Architects who designed a 7,000 square foot terminal in Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture. Character defining elements associated with the Spanish Colonial Revival style were omitted in 1942 due to the effects of World War II on labor, materials, and investment. Typical elements associated with the style such as wrought iron, handmade quarry tiles, decorative tiles, and hand carved woodwork was curtailed. The upper part of the tower was enclosed in glass and was used as a control tower. The two
story building featured a partially sheltered observation deck on the second floor and a garden courtyard surrounded by a low white stucco wall.

When United’s lease expired the City took ownership of the terminal and constructed a small expansion of the building in 1967. During the next decade Golden West Airlines and Hughes West Airlines began regional service from the terminal. Rental car services from Avis, Budget, and Hertz were offered from a small shared counter in the terminal. The terminal’s observation deck was closed in and a restaurant was added. Canvas awnings were added to the building to protect passengers from the rain and two stainless steel slides were added as an outside baggage claim. Passenger use continued to grow and ended the year at 177,000.

Since the 1960’s there have been several proposals to expand the terminal to accommodate increased passenger traffic. Between 1972 and 1974 three concepts were developed for a terminal expansion but community sentiment was not supportive. Finally, in 1976 the terminal was expanded to its current 20,000 square feet. The additions subsumed the original terminal and changed
its shape. The canvas awnings were replaced by red tile roof creating a covered walkway around the front of the terminal. Baggage claim was added in the expansion as well as an area for rental car counters. The second story restaurant was expanded beyond the original observation deck. Annual passenger use reached 398,000.

As the airline industry deregulated in 1978 commercial airline travel skyrocketed because fares became more affordable and air travel was accessible to a broader spectrum of people. By the early 1990s the terminal building was once again overcrowded and changes were made to accommodate growing passenger use. The baggage claim areas were converted to passenger
holdrooms and rental car services were relocated to a building adjacent to the terminal. Airline office and employee locker room facilities were relocated to modular buildings adjacent to the terminal and baggage claim was relocated to tent structures on either side of the terminal.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed the strategies and practices regarding aviation safety. The Transportation Security Administration was created and took over security responsibilities from the Federal Aviation Administration and baggage and passenger screening from the airlines. The agency moved its screening equipment and personnel into the terminal which displaced seating in the terminal lobbies and passenger holdrooms. As security measures tightened the lack of restrooms and food and beverage service in the security holdrooms became a more serious issue.

In 2002 the Airport’s Aviation Facilities Plan was approved. The plan identified the need for additional terminal space to accommodate current and future passenger demand. Design on the new terminal building began in 2005 and culminated in a new terminal campus which will be completed in spring 2012.

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