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Love Field modernization keeps history, character

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Framework of what will be shops and restaurants are put in place in the hallway of the new Love Field Airport.

By Summer Dashe

“Mama we go here!”

Two pigtails bounce up and down as a little brown-haired girl hops from state to state over the painted globe on the floor of The Love Field Airport lobby. Her mother, balancing suitcases in one hand and her purse in the other, patiently corrects her daughter and walks over to California explaining that this was, in fact, where they were headed.

“People have brought their kids out here for years and stood on it and pointed to places they’re going and places they’ve been,” William Manning, program manager for the Dallas Love Field Modernization Program, said one day recently.

This iconic painted floor sits in the heart of the Dallas airport and will be the only aspect that remains untouched after a $519 million remodel to the airport is finished. Even the misspelled “Philadephia” on the globe floor will stay, uncorrected.

“That has a lot of sentimental value to people in Dallas,” Manning said.

The remodel of this historic airport is scheduled to be completed by October 2014, the same month restrictions from the Wright Amendment will be lifted. Under the current laws, flights can only fly directly within the state of Texas or to neighboring states. This means, for the little girl and her mother flying to California, they must first touch down in New Mexico, before continuing on to their final destination.

Walls of windows will supply travelers with lots of space to watch planes come and go.

Some Wright Amendment restrictions were lifted in 2006, such as the ability to ticket passengers through to their final destination. But by 2014, flights out of Love will be able to fly nonstop to destinations across the U.S. The airport will be restricted to no more than 20 gates and there will be no international flights.

Looking out the wall of glass windows in the new section of Love Field onto what will be brand new runway.

But otherwise, travelers out of Love are in for a smoother experience and much nicer digs, say officials.

Renovations include a total of 20 gates, modern facilities, and non-stop flights to farther away states.  New baggage claim and ticketing areas will increase check-in efficiency inside while an expanded road way and curbside will provide ease outside.

Love began as an army landing strip in 1917. It was named after a fallen army officer who died in a flying accident, Moss Love. The first commercial flight took off from Love in 1929 and over the next few decades the American landmark endured change after change.

One of its most historic moments was 1963 when John F. Kennedy and the first lady landed at Dallas Love Field Airport, a visit that would be remembered in infamy. Instead of closing with the birth of DFW International Airport in 1974, Love Field continued to service the Dallas area, prompting former Ft. Worth Congressman, Jim Wright, to implement what is known as the Wright Amendment. The amendment restricted air traffic out of Love Field to help protect DFW.

The plan to renovate, remodel, and rebuild the historic airport began in 2006, when some of the restrictions were lifted.

“The way it looks, it looks like a modern airport now,” Denise McElroy, a Southwest employee veteran and project manager, said. “That’s the biggest wow factor.”

Hidden behind temporary walls concealing the construction stands the skeleton of an ultra-sleek, modern airport. Walking through dust, nails, and power tools, to get to the new, unfinished section of the airport, there is no lack of that same airport feel.

Ceilings that used to be touchable with a slight hop, even to a mid-sized person, now reach 35 feet in the air. Walls of windows look out upon $62 million worth of new pavement.

“A certain percentage of construction dollars would be public art,” Manning said. More than $3 million, in fact.
Hanging over what the workers have begun calling “The Diamond,” or the lobby of the new section where shops, stores, and restaurants converge in what looks like a diamond shape will be 4,000 strings of beads. Light will shine through the windows causing a Texas sunset effect through the colors of the beads.

A rose garden will sit in an outside area with trees and benches where travelers can relax. This is not to be confused with the brand new doggy relief area that will be in a separate part of the airport.

Despite the sprinkle of hard hats moving about and the buzz of power tools sending wood shavings every which way, a store front can still be made out amidst the wood frame. Next to it, a restaurant will go in—workers chip away at what looks like a bar.

“We’re going to have a lot more concessions,” McElroy said.

More than 4,000 beads will hang from the ceiling to reflect light over the "diamond" of the airport where shops and restaurants converge.

In the virtual tour created on the Dallas Love Field website to showcase the new design of the airport, store names can be seen above doors. Viewers have speculated that perhaps these are new restaurants and stores going in that they have never heard of, but Manning confirms that they are all made up.

“In fact, it’s some of our names on those shops,” Manning said, his bright orange construction vest bouncing with laughter.

Though the store names in the video don’t disclose the real restaurants and stores yet, some of the new concessions include Cool River, Sonic, Jason’s Deli and The Cowboy Shop. For a full list of what you’ll see in the new Love Field, click here.

Many Love Field travelers prefer the airport because of its ease and convenience. The crew of more than 700 workers has been adamant about not disrupting travel.

Matthew Owens, a frequent traveler into the Love Field Airport, said he had no trouble despite the construction.
“It was nice seeing some updates,” Owens said.

According to workers, travelers have been very positive about the construction, and patient. “They’ve been patient because it’s exciting,” McElroy said.

Though modernization is the goal of the remodel, the team is devoted to keeping the character of Love Field, character that has been built by history layers thick.

Summer Dashe is in her junior year at Southern Methodist University and is heavily involved in campus media and her journalism major. She is the video editor for SMU-TV and The Daily Campus.

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