BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A massive makeover aimed at increasing comfort and security is underway for Baton Rouge Metro Airport.
The airport got lots of overflow traffic during the Super Bowl earlier this year and with more big events heading to south Louisiana, an expansion like this could help boost tourism in the Capital region.
Plastic curtains, contract workers and 'Pardon Our Progress' signs are not the nicest things to see during a walk through the airport. However, some said it is necessary.
"As you travel through other airports, they offer a lot more amenities for their customers," said Shahla Canafax, a frequent flyer. "I'm a big fan of Charlotte's airport. They have excellent restrooms and they also have the rocking chairs out. It makes it really comfortable because when you have to spend a good amount of time in an airport, you want something that's comfortable."
Soon, the Baton Rouge airport will be more appealing to its customers. Spokesperson Jim Caldwell said BTR is getting a major facelift that should be finished just in time for the holiday travel season.
"The current area of the rotunda will become a non-secure area, meaning it'll be an arrival court, passengers seeing people off or waiting on arriving passengers," Caldwell explained. "They'll have a nice spacious area with new restrooms and vending areas to wait."
He said the metro area has seen a lot of development since the last airport renovation 15 years ago and it's time the airport reflects what's happening around it.
"You need room for growth. With the additional TSA check-in lane, it's going to give us both room for growth and it's also going to make it a nicer, more pleasant environment for passengers," Caldwell added.
Passengers have high hopes for what this expansion project will mean for them and their fellow travelers.
"Maybe more variety of stores and restaurants," said Rachael Swift, another frequent flyer. "Just a little bit more to do for those who have to stay here for a while in the airport. It'd be nice to see a little bit more."
"It's a nice change, a fresh look and it looks like a big city airport," Rob Saucier, another frequent flyer, added.
The baggage claim area was recently updated. It is sporting brand new carpet, a fresh coat of paint and new LED advertising monitors. However, there is a much bigger project happening upstairs.
Artist renderings show what the airport will look like in just a few months when the expansion project is complete. A new rotunda will be twice as big as the current one, leaving plenty of non-secure space where people can see their loved ones off or welcome them to Baton Rouge.
Airport staff members also said there will be a new gift shop, restrooms and eventually, updated restaurant options. People who use the Baton Rouge airport frequently said they're excited to see BTR get some much needed upgrades that could help it keep up with airports in other cities.
"It's opening up a little bit more. I'm seeing progress as I've been flying here. I'm not sure what they're doing, but I'm excited to see what will happen and how it will grow," Swift said.
Officials said the project will cost about $9 million and the money to pay for it is from ticket and other sales, not from tax dollars.