Reno-Tahoe airport job challenging for contractors

Want to know how difficult the $27 million central security checkpoint and retail addition at Reno-Tahoe International Airport was for construction crews?

More than 48,000 individual IT connections were re-routed and replaced, all while keeping the airport’s myriad of networked computer systems online.

“The logistics of this project were mind-numbing,” says airport Spokesman Brian Kulpin. “To redo all the high-tech cabling and fiber optic lines, even for the TSA and the gaming machines, that was a daunting task. Remember, this is a 24-7 high-security operation.”

The airport’s Gateway project that opened last week is the culmination of years of continuous remodeling work at the airport that saw the installation of new check-in counters, a new baggage claim area and baggage handling system, and lastly, a state-of-the-art security checkpoint and new retail space in secure areas on the second floor between the main concourses.

(Take note, Burning Man fans: the new full-body scanners employed at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint clearly showed the folded handkerchief in Kulpin’s pants pocket.)

The Gateway project required extensive demolition of existing building space and slightly extending the terminal’s footprint toward the runways. Much of the airport’s dated mechanical systems that were installed in 1960 as the airport readied to receive visitors from around the world for the Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley also were removed and replaced.

Tim Kretzschmar, president of the building division at Q&D Construction, says his team spent more than a year carefully planning how crews and subcontractors would go about their work without disrupting daily airport operations. Krestschmar estimates his team spent several thousand man-hours in planning alone.

Perhaps nothing was more difficult than planning how to remove and reconnect the critical fiber optic and data cabling and 48,000-plus connections that keep airport operations continually running.

RFI Communications & Security and PowerComm Solutions of Reno handled the data infrastructure work. Fleet Heating & Air Conditioning did all the dry mechanical work, and J.W McClenahan Co. of Sparks handled all the wet-side plumbing.

Kretzschmar says the construction-manager-at-risk contracting method allowed his team to fully scope out the job and understand the nuances of how it would all come together.

“That is the great part of the CMAR, we were able to come in a year early, poke our heads above the ceilings and discover all that stuff and work with the architect, the airport, the different airlines and rental places and figure out what needed to be done,” Kretzschmar says.

Keeping the public safe during heavy construction also presented tremendous logistical challenges. Crews were demolishing the old building and expanding its footprint while keeping the traveling public out of harm’s way through use of temporary walls that guided foot traffic through the construction area and onto the concourses. Critical work often was performed at night when travel through the facility was at its slowest.

“We just kept moving the walls around and re-routing the public,” Krestzschmar says. “We couldn’t have done any of that without the airport’s cooperation. There were a lot of challenges, but we planned so far ahead of time, and all the safety precautions were in place. There is no margin for error.”

The addition of several new retail shops and restaurants is expected to grow annual revenues at the airport by as much as 20 percent, says Tina Iftiger, vice president of airport economic development. “Dwell times,” or length of consumer stays in airport eateries, as well as average spending, also are expected to rise.

The next phase of improvements at Reno-Tahoe International Airport could include refiguration of the ground-level gaming systems to implement newer gaming technologies, and renovation of the concourses, which were built in the 1980s.

“We have improved the airport a segment at a time,” Kulpin says. “We have done cost-effective planning. We have worked our way toward the concourses, but that will be for a future board to decide.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment