SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Sarasota Bradenton International Airport is booming. Between January and March, more than one million people traveled through SRQ Airport – almost 450,000 of them in March alone.
“We are up 92% this year,” said airport CEO and president Rick Piccolo. “We have done about 1.1 million passengers in the first three months of this year. Just a few years ago, that was about a yearly total.”
Piccolo says the exponential growth is aligned with what the community is experiencing as a whole.
“You are seeing the growth in housing, you are seeing the growth in population, you are seeing the growth in tourism,” said the airport president.
“It’s busy all the time. There’s no light days,” said longtime Sarasota County resident Marie Nelson.
The challenge with rapid growth is keeping up with demand.
“Infrastructure takes planning and time. You can’t just pop it up in a minute. It is not like building a tent. You have to really plan it and make sure what you are doing will be sustainable both in the short term and long term,” said Piccolo.
Piccolo says $150 million worth of improvement projects will take place over the next two years including a new terminal with five additional gates, a new baggage system, a new ground transportation facility and expanded parking.
Travelers are eager to see the airport’s capacity grow.
“I definitely think expanding the airport would be good. It would also bring a little more traffic into Sarasota which could be a good or bad thing. Definitely in terms of how many flights could come in, it could increase the capacity. More flights would be available so that would be a good thing,” said traveler Alexandra Bespalko.
SRQ Airport currently houses 11 airlines traveling to 53 nonstop destinations.
“Our goal is to continue the level of cleanliness and convenience that we have always had, regardless of the size that we become,” said Piccolo.