Airport terminal changes praised
Written by Duane Marsteller The Tennessean
11:03 PM, Jul. 19, 2011|
It was a get-together that Robert C.H.Mathews Jr. — better-known simply as "Bob," "Bobby"or "Mr. Chairman" — would have enjoyed.
More than 100 people, including several elected state and local officials, gathered at Nashville International Airport on July 12 to celebrate completion of the terminal’slatest renovation project and rename the building in Mathews’ honor.
"He was such a people person," said AliceCasey Mathews, who was surrounded by family members as airport officials unveileda plaque commemorating her late husband’s contributions to the airport. "Hewould have loved this. He never met a person he didn’t like."
Mathews, who died in 2008 at age 80,served on the Metro Nashville Airport Authority from 1979 to 2001. He waschairman of the board, which manages Nashville International and John C. Tune airports, for 19 of those years.
During Mathews’ tenure, the authority opened the passenger terminal that now bears his name, expanded the cargoterminal, added runways and parking areas and developed Tune airport.
"Bobby Mathews was a great leader, not just for the authority but for aviation ingeneral," said Raul Regalado, the authority’s president and chief executive. "Fromearly on in his tenure, he stood behind this industry as being an essential part of ourregion’s economy."
Nashville’s two airports generated anestimated $3.75 billion economic impact in 2006, according to a 2007 study done forthe authority. Nine airlines now offer 380 daily flights at Nashville International, which handled more than 9 million passengers in 2010.
Some passengers, appropriately dressed in light clothing for a 100-degree day, brieflystopped or turned their heads as they passed the renaming ceremony being held in the passenger terminal’s ticketing lobby.That prompted Mayor Karl Dean, who was wearing a dark-colored suit, to joke that he wished he could be less formally attired.
The mayor also called Mathews "an early proponent of air service as an economic engine" who recognized that Nashville International was a key first impression for visitors and visiting business people.
Airport officials say the recently completed renovation project only will enhance that image.
The roughly $30 million project includednew public restrooms and renovation of existing ones, new carpet and tile in theterminal and concourse, a renovated baggage claim area and fresh wall coverings.
It was the second phase of a larger projectthat previously resulted in more than 30 new food, beverage and retail vendors,opened a central passenger security checkpoint and added concourse skylightsand flight information displays.
That’s not the end of the improvements.The airport also expects to finish building a 1.2 million-square-foot consolidated rentalcar facility later this year.
And more work is on the way. Next month,the authority will launch a $4.2 million project to replace escalators and glasswindows in the passenger terminal; install walls next to the moving sidewalk in theshort-term parking garage; relocate ticket counters; and install additional securitycameras.