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Sacramento Opens Doors to New $1 Billon Airport Terminal

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Some 147 flights depart from Sacramento airport each day. (Image: Dean Kennedy)
Some 147 flights depart from Sacramento airport each day. (Image: Dean Kennedy)


  • New $1 billion terminal replaces 40-year-old Terminal B
  • Airport renovations created 2,400 jobs during recession
  • $6 million in public art displays featured in new terminal

Sacramento’s state-of-the-art $1 billion terminal will breathe new life into the Californian capital’s international airport when it opens today. The new facility replaces the old Terminal B to meet the growing demands of the expanding air travel industry and boost the airport’s potential to attract new flight routes and carriers.

The old terminal was built in 1947 when security checks were basically a matter of presenting a valid passport and ticket. The new Sacramento International Airport will have the latest high-tech security measures with whole-body backscatter x-ray scanners that display a chalk outline of the passenger.

The renovations were designed to cater for 16 million passengers per year, a figure which airport authorities expect to be reached over the next two decades.

The airport makeover has created around 2,400 jobs since construction began in 2008, when unemployment was sitting at close to 12% in Sacramento County due to the recession.

Since the recession, passenger numbers have dropped to around 9 million per year, some 2 million less than in 2008. It will take about five years for passenger numbers to reach the same levels as in 2008, according to county Airports Director G. Hardy Acree.

Airport Terminal Art Gallery

The 680,000 square feet hall will showcase some $6 million in public art, including a 56-foot red aluminum rabbit, suspended on wires, about to jump through a vortex in a suitcase below. "The rabbit's diving down to a suitcase, it's obvious you're supposed to go down there to retrieve your bags,” said Shelly Willis, director of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, which organized the airport’s 12 art displays.

The cost of the new terminal will be borne by passengers and airlines at Sacramento International, the fifth biggest airport in California and the 39th biggest in the United States.

Parking fees and a $4.50 air travel surcharge will reimburse around half of the costs, with another quarter coming in the form of fees from carriers who operate flights to and from the airport. The remaining expenses are expected to be recovered from various sources including government contributions, car rental companies and shopping and eating facilities in the terminal.

Carriers are trying to renegotiate the hike in passenger fees with Southwest Airlines, Sacramento airport’s main carrier, protesting at the jump in fees from its 2008 figure of $6.05 per person to $16.15 in 2012.

Southwest’s 2013 fee is expected to rise again to $19.67.

Key Facts – Sacramento Airport Investment (source: AP)

  • Construction costs will total $1 billion, after being scaled back from almost $1.3 billion
  • $8 million in total was spent on the 12 art displays, with $6 million for the art pieces and $2 million as down payment for future maintenance.
  • In 2010, 9 million passengers used Sacramento International Airport; that figure is expected to increase to 16 million passengers over the next 20 years.
  • Some 147 flights depart from Sacramento airport each day.

By James Mulholland for
James Mulholland is a Paris-based internet and broadcast journalist specializing in sports, current affairs and technology news, while also freelancing as a photographer.

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