Building trades set for takeoff: Construction companies line up for first set of bids on $300M midfield terminal

Keywords Economy

The Indianapolis Airport Authority board on May 9 is expected to vote to approve the letting of the first six construction packages. They’re worth a total of $70 million, said Midfield Program Manager John Kish.

That’s about a quarter of the $300 million terminal building’s price tag.

The $974 million midfield project also includes a new airport entrance at I-70 and Six Points Road.

But it’s the terminal building that has broad appeal to the trades.

“I’d say this is a massive opportunity,” said John Griffin, executive director of the Central Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council.

Even with major projects over the years such as Circle Centre mall and any number of Eli Lilly and Co. expansions, “I don’t remember anything nearly to the extent that this will affect the construction market. It just kind of snowballs on itself,” said Darrell Gossett, president of Indianapolis electrical contractor ERMCO Inc.

That’s because everything from hotels to rental car companies will move to the midfield area, meaning more construction in and around the airport, said Bill Freeman, chairman of Indianapolis-based Charles C. Brandt Construction Co.

Such a monster project also signals to business, “If all that is going on, that means there’s a vibrant economy,” Freeman said. “Businesses say, ‘Hey, the airport is going to be a big, vibrant place. We need to build a facility”’ nearby. “That’s what I’m looking at,” Freeman said of midfield-related construction opportunities.

The beginning of terminal construction also should stymie airlines from further attempts to delay the project beyond its 2008 opening date. As it is, midfield will open a year behind schedule because of objections from cash-strapped airlines that must pay for a portion of the project through higher terminal rents and landing fees.

Further delays or major modifications to the project get expensive from here on out, Kish said. “The idea is that terminal building construction, once it starts, needs to proceed on schedule … The crane sitting out there costs a lot of money.”

Indiana construction firms should get the opportunity to do the bulk of the work. Not so with the primary design work, which was awarded to St. Louisbased Hellmuth Obata and Kassabaum Inc.

ERMCO’s Gossett said he’ll have an eye out for more work at midfield. His firm previously landed contracts worth $4 million to bring electrical and fiber-optic service to the site.

Kish said about 45 bid packages are likely to be awarded for midfield construction. The first ones are:

Excavation, $1 million to $5 million.

Deep foundation, $1 million to $5 million. Includes caissons and piers for terminal and pedestrian bridge.

Concrete, $10 million-plus. Footers and pads.

Structural steel, $10 million-plus. All structural steel columns, trusses and joists.

Elevators and escalators, $5 million to $10 million.

General work, $5 million to $10 million. Various projects on terminal, concourses, passenger bridge, elevated road and airside infrastructure.

Midfield makes up the bulk of a $1.5 billion capital improvement plan at Indianapolis International Airport. Most of that will be paid for with bond debt, including $218 million of bonds issued late last year and $655 million the authority plans to issue in 2006-2008.

Passenger ticket fees will fund $70 million of the capital plan, along with $209 million in state and federal grants and $261 million in airport funds that include fees paid by airlines to use the airport.

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