This week passengers will make their way for the first time down an extended wing of the Wilmington International Airport.
The new concourse opened for a preview ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning, unveiling vaulted ceilings, local art, expansive seating and new gates.
Passengers and some flights will begin using the new space Tuesday.
Work on the last phase of the multi-year $68 million expansion project began in 2020. The expansion increased ILM’s space by 75% to reach a total of 162,800 square feet. The Federal Aviation Administration contributed $35.5 million toward the three-phase expansion project, officials said Monday.
The first $1.8 million phase of the project added a new outbound bag room with screening equipment; the second $12 million phase expanded the ticket lobby, counter and offices. As the most intensive and expensive portion of the overhaul, phase three included the new concourse gates, seating and restaurant/retail space.
Passengers will board United’s inaugural nonstop flight to Newark on Friday. Airport officials said they hope to attract additional routes and carriers with the newfound space.
“It's a true catalyst for economic development,” said New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, who also serves on the airport authority.
The concourse was constructed by Monteith Construction, which also oversaw the first two phases of the expansion project).
“With all our growth and demand, expanding the terminal has been a top priority,” New Hanover County Airport Authority Chair Donna Girardot told attendees at the ceremony Monday. "We want to ensure ILM has increased to a capacity to accommodate our current and future for us.”
Artist Jill Webb’s “Loggerhead Labyrinth” includes a floor maze on the shell of a sea turtle. Nearby, the Parks Griffin Space features historical displays that detail the county’s first flight in 1919 and the construction of ILM’s first control tower in 1987. The space was named after the former airport authority board member who served from 1995 to 2003.
With the new concourse area open, one gate at a time at the old concourse – first constructed in 1989 – will close to undergo renovations, according to Granseur Dick, ILM’s facilities director. Once complete, ILM will have a total of nine gates. Work on planning the expansion dates back to 2013, Dick said.
Stay tuned for more details on the expansion in the Feb. 18 print issue of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
Correction: An original version of this article and headline incorrectly stated when ILM would welcome passengers; the inaugural United Newark flight takes place Friday, but the terminal opens to the public Tuesday.