Where you might not expect to find fine art and a sports bar
DESIGNS and plans for the multi-million dollar expansion of the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport have been revealed.
In an exclusive interview, airport manager Neil Weatherson unveiled images of the $5.4 million project which includes an increase in seating, entertainment and parking options for passengers and visitors.
He said Stage 1 of the Terminal Precinct Expansion Project, which includes a $900,000 loan from Ballina Shire Council, should start about August and be completed early next year.
However, Mr Weatherson said he would be going to council on March 16 to ask for more cash so the project could save money by undertaking part of Stage 2 - which focuses on the new arrivals lounge - at the same time.
"This is one of the biggest projects we have done. It's very exciting as it will change the whole face of the airport," he said.
"It will change how it looks and it's all about the passenger experience.
"The departure lounge will triple in size, seating will increase from 200 to 400, the cafe will double in size, there will be a sports bar, newsagent and gift store and small art gallery.
Mr Weatherson said while the airport was grateful to receive $4.5 million in funding from the New South Wales Government's Restart NSW Regional Tourism Infrastructure Program, he hoped the council would open its purse a little wider.
He said the airport expected to service more than 600,000 passengers this year - an increase of 107,000 on 2016 - and that figure would likely grow to 700,000 in years to come.
"We are looking for some extra dollars and going back to council for a bit of assistance in that regards. We hope they will see their way clear (to) help us out in the matter," he said.
"We certainly want to try to do the best we can now while the contractors are on-site. It will be cheaper to do the work now than later on and by doing part of Stage 2 now it will make it easier for us long-term."
Many of the design aspects came from listening carefully to passenger feedback, he said.
"In our passenger survey they asked us for certain things and this is about delivering them and surpassing their expectations," Mr Weatherson said. "It's going to be very exciting."
Mr Weatherson said the firm behind the designs for the airport was Stea astute architecture, which won the AAA 2016 Innovation & Excellence - Infrastructure Development Award for its plans for the terminal upgrade at Karratha Airport.