St. Pete-Clearwater airport spotlights renovations

Travelers now have a new local food option at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

A version of Mazzaro’s Italian Market opened near gates 7 through 11 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday as part of a partnership with airport restaurant and snack store operator SSP-Hudson PIE Concessions.

“As we see airport concessions across the nation starting to close, at least temporarily, because of a pandemic, again, we’re very fortunate that Mazzaro’s and SSP have made a decision to move forward,” said airport director Thomas Jewsbury.

Jewsbury said the partnership showed Mazzaro’s confidence in the airport’s recovery process. Passenger traffic is down 40 percent at PIE, the airport director said. The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is currently operating nonstop flights to 53 destinations.

The St. Pete-Clearwater airport also has plans to open a branch of 3 Daughters Brewing in early 2021 and the District Pub at a later date.

There has been a nationwide trend of airports welcoming local brands into their buildings. Across the Bay, the Tampa International Airport has introduced several local dining options, such as Ducky’s Sports Lounge and Columbia Café.

Hudson, a nationwide airport concessions operator, agreed to initially invest nearly $4.2 million in the renovations, in addition to a minimum of $1.2 million in the first year and a 3 percent increase annually through 10 years.

In a news media tour Tuesday, airport officials showed reporters the new retail spots resulting from the contract. Since 2019, the airport has added Mazzaro’s, Sand & Sky Shoppe, Dunkin’ and Market 361 in the airport gates. It also opened a Hudson/Dunkin’ concession in the pre-security area.

Souvenirs are seen at the new Hudson Dunkin Tuesday at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in Clearwater. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

In addition, an expanded customs facility at the airport opened in January. It has the capacity to process 300 passengers an hour, having added six new kiosks. Currently, the airport only offers pre-cleared commercial flights from Canada and only private flights use the customs facility. However, the airport hopes to expand its international options.

In Aug. 2019, discount carrier Allegiant expanded from 12 to 21 ticketing counters in the airport. The airport also added a new checked baggage in-line system, allowing the Transportation Security Administration to process 1300 bags an hour, compared to 250 per hour in the past. Whereas the previous system included manual components and required agents to move bags, the new installation is completely automated.

“There’s a lot of ergonomics that went into this” said Transportation Security Administration manager Mitchell Duff. “Over the years, TSA has looked at making sure that our folks are safe and that we’re not getting injuries while we’re lifting bags.”

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