After two decades of planning and six years of construction, the new Salt Lake City International Airport opened in 2020 to replace three aging, 1950s and 1960s terminals and concourses with a state-of-the-art, $4.1 billion facility on the same site. It’s the largest public works project in Utah’s history and the first new U.S. hub airport in the 21st century.
The first phase includes a new 909,000-sq.-ft. central terminal building and the west portions of two linear concourses—the 3,700-foot-long Concourse A and the 3,400-foot-long Concourse B—with a total of 45 new gates. A nearly 1,000-foot-long passenger tunnel links the concourses.
“[We’re] changing the entire physical model of the airport,” said Executive Director Bill Wyatt. “The new terminal is “so much more efficient for aircraft and passengers…it’s just a stunningly beautiful and functional facility.”
HOK’s design celebrates Utah’s natural beauty and reputation as an outdoor recreation hub. The light-filled terminal has 50-foot floor-to-ceiling glass walls that draw in daylight while providing expansive views to the airfield and the nearby Wasatch Mountains. Earth-toned, naturally derived interior and exterior finishes further connect passengers to Salt Lake City’s unique western locale. New dining and retail options ensure that the airport is an extension of the overall Utah experience. Branding and wayfinding systems by HOK’s Experience Design team express the region’s adventurous spirit while helping travelers navigate through the airport.
A soaring interior atrium—“The Canyon”—spans the length of a football field and houses security screening areas, shopping, and food and beverage outlets. Artist Gordon Huether created a 362-foot-long, wavy sculpture made of more than 520 tensile membrane ‘fins’ that define the walls, with the design reflecting Utah’s dramatic red rock canyons, alpine peaks and moving water.
Other features that improve the passenger experience include:
- The Greeting Room—a large area that can accommodate up to 400 individuals and that includes a fireplace—where friends and family members can pick up passengers.
- Amenities like a ski drop help reinforce the region as a destination for outdoor tourism.
- 16 high-tech security screening lanes will be up to 30 percent faster for travelers.
- A new 3,600-stall parking garage offers twice the number of spaces and uses a camera-based sensor system to indicate open spots. Passengers can check bags in garage kiosks.
- Electronic plug-ins at each seat and in open seating areas throughout the airport.
- A 28,000-sq.-ft. Delta Sky Club that is the carrier’s largest in the world; the new South terminal is home to Delta’s fourth-largest hub.
The project has achieved LEED Gold certification. Sustainable design strategies minimize the airport’s environmental footprint through high-performance glazing, daylighting, energy-efficient mechanical and lighting systems, and an efficient configuration of terminal and gate locations that reduces fuel use and aircraft emissions.
Working with two construction managers (HDJV and AOJV), the team has found innovative economies of scale in design, specification and construction. The second phase, expected to be complete in 2024, will include demolishing existing structures and building out the east portion of the South concourse. The dramatic global slowdown in air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the team to accelerate the new airport’s completion by two years, potentially saving up to $300 million.
The new airport will be able to handle 34 million passengers per year, positioning Salt Lake City for economic growth as an increasingly popular destination for tourism and business.