Nashville, Tennessee (WTVF) — One unified terminal, multi-level entrances, 12 new concessions, 14 additional security lanes: Tuesday marked the first day in Nashville since the BNA Vision renovation project began in 2017. We recorded the biggest change at Bill International Airport.
“Fantastic,” John Desser said Tuesday morning while checking in for a flight home to Washington, DC. “It feels like a real airport in a real city. Awesome!”
Almost everything is different. Travelers are now entering through the center of the airport and no longer avoiding buildings that have been hidden for years.
“I didn’t look last week because everything was closed. This morning I thought I’d go through the central section and see what’s new,” said the resident of Nashville for work. Rhonda Fraser, who travels weekly, said.
She says what immediately caught her attention were two 70-foot-long screens displaying 12k live-action footage from locations across the state.
The Grand Lobby is 200,000 square feet. There are round skylights that help the building look like a square guitar from above.
It features a hanging art installation of 8,000 Japanese paper kites suspended from fiberglass poles.
BNA President and CEO Doug Kreulen said: “Behind us, where video screens were used as offices… So we completely dismantled the 1987 terminal and raised the roof to make it more comfortable for passengers.”
New security lanes are equipped with 3D scanners for carry-on bags. This means you won’t have to carry your big electronics around, but you’ll still have to fit your bag in the tray.
So those oversized carry-ons you’ve run away with in the past? You have to check with your airline.
Oddly shaped bags (such as guitar cases) are hand-checked by the TSA, just like stroller handling.
Twelve new businesses opened to the public Tuesday in the new Grand Lobby, including Pharmacy Burger Parlor, Parnassus Books, Draper James, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum store.
“We wanted the overall design of this building to reflect Tennessee: warm colors, skylights, wood, but we also wanted the business inside. [to reflect Tennessee]So if you come to Central Tennessee and enjoy downtown Nashville and the surrounding counties, you can enjoy it again at the airport,” Cruelen said.
When BNA Vision is completed at the end of the year, the airport will add about 90 new shops and restaurants, half of which will be local. The selected companies won stiff competition. Fraport Tennessee, which runs retail and concession programs, said 450 businesses applied for his 90 open spots.
BNA is expanding its gates and landing at new non-stop destinations to accommodate an estimated 35 million passengers a year over the next 20 years.
“We have 95 direct flights,” says Kreulen. “Our new target is 135. In September, when we open the new international arrivals facility, we will increase the number of international gates from one to six. I would like to get a direct flight to , and eventually to Asia.”
The new international facility is just behind security and is now walled off. Once complete, travelers can look straight down the taxiway and watch planes take off and land.
But construction is far from over when the $1.5 billion BNA Vision project is completed this year. The airport has another expansion of his $1.4 billion called New Horizons next. This will increase the number of gates at the airport to nearly 70 by 2028.
If you’re wondering how all of this will be paid for, you’re not alone. After air subsidies, the Metro Nashville Airport Authority borrows bonds to cover costs. Pay off that debt with the money you make at the airport, including airline fees, concessions, and parking.
A major road reconstruction project is also underway to make way for a larger airport. If the Tennessee Department of Transportation succeeds in moving the Donelson Pike Interchange further east (estimated by 2026), BNA will have room to double the length of the inner loop and expand capacity from 3 to 6 lanes .
Before that, the next major feature opening is the international arrivals facility in the fall. The Hilton hotel and satellite concourse are expected to open by the end of the year.
For someone who travels a lot, this is a big change.
“It definitely competes with the top class in the country,” Fraser said before checking in for the flight.