VIPA completes first phase of King Airport renovations


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ST. THOMAS - After months of being greeted by temporary walls erected to block the sights and sounds of construction, travelers disembarking at King Airport on Monday were greeted by a cheery green paint job, plants and planters and new, expanded bathrooms in the baggage claim area.

The renovation is the first phase of a $4 million project to re-do the baggage claim area at King Airport.

The area is the first impression many tourists get of the island, and the cramped and dingy bathrooms needed an upgrade.

V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe said it is time for the territory to have port facilities that are second to none.

"I think the residents and tourists alike will recognize that it's a major improvement from what it used to be," he said.

When passengers head toward baggage claim, they now will be greeted by a bright green wall and a welcome desk staffed by V.I. Tourism employees.

The new entrance features terrazzo tiles and stonework that will be continued throughout the entire baggage claim area.

Planters bring a lush, tropical vibe to travelers walking through the airport toward the baggage claim.

However, the bathrooms are the major change, and they are equipped with all the modern amenities.

The men's and women's bathroom used to have just two stalls each, and after a flight would arrive, lines of passengers would back up waiting to use the facilities.

The new women's bathroom has eight stalls; the new men's bathroom has five stalls and five urinals.  

Dowe said this is the first major remodeling of the baggage claim area since the airport was constructed in 1990.

The other phases of the project will include splitting one existing baggage belt, installing a new belt with new, automated signage, new concession areas, and a new restaurant area.

The entire baggage claim area, which currently is open air, will be enclosed and air conditioned.

The contractor for the project is Custom Builders. The renovations began in December and the rest of the project is scheduled to be completed by November. 

The $4 million project is funded with Passenger Facility Charges, a federally approved amount charged for each passenger who arrives at the airport.

The Port Authority is preparing to do a similar renovation at Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, Dowe said. 

The authority hired FR Maintenance and Construction for the St. Croix bathroom renovation, and construction is expected to begin this month, according to the Port Authority.

Dowe said the Port Authority plans to renovate the restrooms at all its port facilities in Fiscal Year 2015.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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